U.S. comedies warm Ch. 4 winter

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LONDON -- U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 will debut U.S. laffers "Reaper," "Big Bang Theory" and "Back to You" to viewers as part of its winter schedule.

The trio of comedy imports joins ABC drama "Dirty Sexy Money" as well as new seasons of "Desparate Housewives," "E.R." and the final eight outings of "The Sopranos" on the broadcaster's sked.

In August, channel bigwigs told audiences at the Edinburgh Television Festival that it was slashing its acquisitions budget for U.S. buys by £10 million ($20.6 million) and thus far has stuck to its guns.

But Channel 4 acquisitions director Jeff Ford told The Hollywood Reporter that such U.S. buys will continue to be a "very important part of the channel's lineup."

Ford said it wasn't clear exactly how many episodes of each show the deal would mean with the ongoing writers' strike stateside.

"Obviously some of our shows will be limited, but we are optimistic with them (the writers) meeting next week," Ford said. "We have a contingency plan in place should it go on for a long time."

The winter schedule also will showcase three factual programs of one-off films and a "new entertainment vehicle" for stand-up Alan Carr.

The slate will look at food, the Iraq war and art in the U.K. today. The food strand will "ask the British public to think before they eat" and have three local television chef stars, including Gordon Ramsay, examine the situation.

Documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield's "Battle For Haditha" will take center stage in the Iraq war season, programd to mark the fifth anniversary of the country's invasion.

The art strand will feature artists including Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor looking at the role of the medium in the U.K. today.

According to Channel 4, the winter schedule marks the first output since the introduction of a new commissioning policy announced this fall by channel chief Julian Bellamy.

That policy includes moving "Celebrity Big Brother" from its regular January slot on Channel 4 to digital sister channel E4 as of next year. 
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