'Listen' first of 30 originals for Hallmark

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Hallmark Channel said Thursday that it is ramping up its original movie production, inking development and/or production deals with such producers as Gerald W. Abrams, Orly Adelson and Dan Wigutow.

The network announced during its portion of the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton that its 2008 lineup will include 30 original movies, its largest-ever development slate of original telefilms. The first of the new slate, "When You Listen," executive produced by Abrams and starring Tom Bosley, is in preproduction for a Jan. 5 premiere.

"This makes us the largest single producer of quality movies … of any cable network in the industry," said Henry Schleiff, president and CEO of Crown Media Holdings, owner and operator of Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel.

Schleiff added that the movies are budgeted at more than $2 million each.

Hallmark's original movies perform well for the network, including such recent titles as "Avenging Angel" and "You've Got a Friend" and such mystery franchises as "Murder 101" and "Jane Doe."

"Listen" centers on a young girl's beloved grandfather who suffers a heart attack, then uses the would-be tragedy to help repair all the broken hearts around him. Jordy Benattar co-stars. Abrams is exec producing with Tom Wertheimer. Susan Murdoch is producing, and Karen Struck wrote the script.

Other upcoming programs spotlighted Thursday by Hallmark include the miniseries "Final Approach" (November) and the movies "Claire" (Aug. 11), "A Grandpa for Christmas" (Dec. 1) and "Murder 101: If Wishes Were Horses" (Aug. 18).

Meanwhile, National Geographic Channel announced programming including "The Secret History of the Bra," which traces the garment from its roots. It premieres Sept. 28.

NGC's signature series, "Explorer," returns Aug. 8 with a new season and will cover such topics as jellyfish, the science of dog breeding, crocodiles, the development of babies, mummies found in China, the heroin trade out of Afghanistan and a global black market in body parts.

In addition, "Road to War: Iraq," from the producers of the network's "Inside 9/11" special, debuts Aug. 27.
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