A&E plans ani project, matchmaker series


PASADENA -- A&E Network has handed out its first animated pilot order to a project from the producers of "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist."

In addition, the network is going into production on an unscripted series focusing on matchmaker Patti Novak and has ordered a pilot of a show about unexplained phenomena that it calls the "real" "X-Files." The announcements were made Tuesday during A&E's portion of the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.

Like "Dr. Katz," "Hollywood DMV" will combine a workplace comic narrative with stand-up comedy, A&E said. The project will focus on the characters working at the DMV as they work out their petty office dramas and their bizarre personality defects; it also will feature stand-up comedy from characters standing in line who are played by actual comedians.

"Hollywood DMV," from Popular Arts Entertainment, is executive produced by Tim Braine and Kevin Meagher. Robert Sharenow is executive producer and Colleen Conway is supervising producer for A&E.

A&E executive vp and general manager Bob DeBitetto said in an interview that the network is interested in animation for several reasons, including the desire to "capitalize" on the fact that its median age dropped to 45 last year and on some nights falls in the early 30s.

"Three years ago when our median age was 60 years old, that wasn't the time to be exploring edgy animation because we didn't really have the audience that matched up well with that," he said.

DeBitetto also pointed out that it's the right time to try something new following the success of A&E's real-life series including "Dog the Bounty Hunter," "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" and "Intervention."

"If you keep trying to do the same thing over and over, it catches up with you," he said. "We've seen success with our real-life (series) and we'll continue to do that, but this is a great opportunity to look around and see what other kinds of storytelling might serve us well."

DeBitetto added that he'll be targeting a later slot -- like 10 or 11 p.m. -- should the project get picked up to series.

The tentatively titled "Patti Novak: America's Toughest Matchmaker" centers on Buffalo, N.Y.-based Novak, who will help two singles each week. The show will follow them through the intial interview, date and "painfully" honest follow-up.

The 13-episode half-hour series, scheduled to premiere in the second quarter, will be produced by Sharp Entertainment. Matt Sharp is the executive producer along with Smash Advertising. Conway is exec producer for A&E.

Meanwhile, A&E said that "Alien Encounters" is "the first show to tackle the controversial field of unexplained phenomena by investigating paranormal activity with its own objective and highly credible task force." The project, produced by Original Prods., is executive produced by Thom Beers and co-exec produced by Phillip Segal. Sharenow is exec producer for A&E.

A&E also said Tuesday that it has picked up new seasons of "The First 48" (premiering at 9 p.m. Jan. 11), "King of Cars" (11 p.m. Jan. 30), "Intervention" (10 p.m. March 16, a new day and time), "Criss Angel Mindfreak" (summer 2007), "Dog the Bounty Hunter" (premiere date to be determined) and "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" (also to be determined).

Additionally, the new real-life series "Sons of Hollywood" debuts at 10 p.m. April 1, while the original movie "Kings of South Beach" premieres at 9 p.m. March 12.