NBC Uni to launch Chiller, Clooney mini


PASADENA -- NBC Universal Cable Entertainment is set to launch a new channel featuring horror and thriller programming, while Sci Fi Channel has teamed up with George Clooney to develop a miniseries set in a futuristic civilization.

Meanwhile, Bravo will end the run of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" after the makeover show's upcoming fifth season. Additionally, the cable channel has inked deals with Paula Abdul and "Project Runway's" Tim Gunn for new unscripted series. Those were among the announcements Friday during the NBC Universal cable networks' portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.

Chiller, set to launch March 1 on DirecTV, is a 24-hour cable channel dedicated to the horror genre, featuring classic films and TV shows. At launch, the slate will include the TV series "Friday the 13th," "Twin Peaks," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Tales from the Crypt" and feature films including "The Shining," "Psycho" and "Blade Runner," said Jeff Gaspin, president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, Digital Content and Cross Network Strategy.

He added in an interview that the channel also has deals in place with studios not owned by NBC Universal for film and TV product as well, including Fox, Lionsgate and Sony.

Chiller will be available as a standard-definition channel, hi-definition simulcast channel and a video-on-demand channel as well as feature broadband-on-demand offerings. Dan Harrison, senior vp emerging networks at NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, will oversee day-to-day operations.

At Sci Fi, "Diamond Age," exec produced by Clooney and Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Prods., is a six-hour mini in development that's based on Neal Stephenson's book "The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer," which the author will adapt for the small screen. As the story goes, when a prominent member of society concedes that their futuristic civilization stifles creativity, he commissions an interactive book for his daughter to serve as her guide through a surreal alternate world, but the device falls into the wrong hands.

At Bravo, Abdul's docu-series, tentatively titled "Hey Paula," will follow the "American Idol" judge in her professional and personal life. The show, from Scott Sternberg Prods., is set to debut later this year.

Gunn's new series for Bravo, "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style," features the "Runway" mentor giving fashion makeovers. He is expected to return for "Runway's" fourth season, which also was announced Friday.

Among the other announcements:

- Sci Fi has greenlighted production on "Flash Gordon," based on the comic strip franchise. Production on 22 one-hour episodes begins in Canada early this year for a July debut, with a broadcast syndication window to follow. The series is produced by Reunion Pictures and RHI Entertainment.

- Billy Campbell will return for USA Network's "The 4000" when it debuts its fourth season in the summer. He?ll now be a series regular.

- Jaclyn Smith is set to host Bravo's upcoming hairstyling competition series "Shear Genuis" (previously known as "Top Hair"). Production on the eight-episode series starts early this year for a spring premiere.

- The fifth and final season of Bravo's "Queer Eye" will debut in the summer. Bravo will wrap up the series with a special final episode after paying tribute to the "Fab Five" throughout the 10-episode season.

- Bravo.com will launch "Watch What Happens" -- a 20-minute, weekly, live-streaming, online show -- Jan. 17. Hosted by Bravo's Andy Cohen, it will allow viewers to ask questions and comment on the network's competition reality series every Wednesday at 11 p.m.

- SciFi.com will launch SCI FI Drive-in, a broadband library of hard-to-find science fiction classics, Jan. 21.