TCA: Lifetime gets real; O'Donnell on 'Nip/Tuck'

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Lifetime Television is launching a new Friday night reality programming block in October that will include returning series "Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead" and new series "America's Psychic Challenge."

Meanwhile, the July 24 premiere of "Damages," FX's new drama starring Glenn Close, will run commercial-free thanks to a sponsorship from Cadillac. FX also confirmed that Rosie O'Donnell will return to "Nip/Tuck."

The announcements were made Thursday during the Television Critics Assn.'s summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton.

At Lifetime's presentation, the network's president of entertainment Susanne Daniels said that the network has ordered eight episodes of "Challenge," a competition series in which amateur psychics compete against one another to become "America's No. 1 psychic." It's produced by Bunim-Murray Prods., with Jon Murray executive producing.

The series will debut at 10 p.m. Oct. 12, following the Season 2 premiere of "Lisa Williams," which features the medium clairvoyant helping others by using her abilities to see and speak with the dead, at 9 p.m.

"(Lifetime will be) offering women a distinct alternative on Friday nights," Daniels said.

Daniels also was asked by the critics about her decision to schedule three new dramas on the same night starting Sunday, with "Side Order of Life" at 8 p.m., "State of Mind" at 9 p.m. and "Army Wives" at 10 p.m.

"I felt we needed to be loud at Lifetime to let people know we were doing things differently and to come check us out," she said. "We put the marketing money behind it. Our thinking was, let's start off with a bang on one night and should we be so lucky we'll build out to two nights."

Daniels also officially announced the renewal of "Wives," which she said has been given an 18-episode order for Season 2 (HR 7/12).

Andrea Wong also was on hand to address the TCA crowd for the first time since becoming president and CEO of Lifetime Networks in April.

"I'm excited to build on (the network's) success, and I hope to infuse the Lifetime brand with energy, vibrancy, relevance and optimism," she said, adding that "we'll be tapping into themes for women ... with a confident power and tone. That's what you'll see in Lifetime going forward" on the air, the Web site and in its public advocacy campaigns.

In other news, Lifetime officially announced the original telefilm "Racing for Time," starring and directed by Charles S. Dutton, which premieres next year (HR 7/12).

The network also announced the premiere dates for several programs, including the original movie "The Murder of Princess Diana," starring Jennifer Morrison, which will air in a special three-night premiere at 9 p.m. Aug. 25, 6 p.m. Aug. 26 and 9 p.m. Aug. 27. It also will air at 9 p.m. Aug. 31, the 10th anniversary of Diana's death.

The original movie "Custody," starring James Denton and Rob Morrow, also has a three-night debut at 9 p.m. Sept. 8, at 6 p.m. Sept. 9 and at 9 p.m. Sept. 10 (HR 6/21).

Also debuting in the fall is the original movie "More of Me," starring Molly Shannon, and the miniseries "The Gathering," starring Peter Gallagher, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Kristin Lehmann, Jenna Boyd and Peter Fonda, which premieres in October.

In addition, the reality series "How to Look Good Naked," hosted by Carson Kressley, will premiere in January.

Later in the day, "Nip/Tuck" creator/executive producer Ryan Murphy said that O'Donnell will be returning for "several episodes" of the show's upcoming fifth season starting with Episode 4. As for talk about a potential spinoff featuring her character, Dawn Budge, Murphy said, "The character was so instantly popular. We've spoken about (a spinoff); it's an ongoing discussion."

Meanwhile, Close said she took the part in "Damages" -- her first leading role in a TV series -- because she's "always been seduced by really good writing. ... To have chance to do a show like this with an incredibly complex character and make it in my own backyard (New York) was very exciting."

FX also announced that the comedy series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" will have its Season 3 premiere at 10 p.m. Sept. 13.
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