CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association began its summer press tour yesterday in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters. The first week of the annual three week tour is devoted to cable as Monday saw the Hallmark Channel, TechTV, E!/Style, National Geographic Channel, BBC America, Oxygen, Court TV, Game Show Network and Sundance Channel all holding sessions for the press.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of each network's presentation:
BBC AMERICA -- The cable network will air the controversial BBC documentary "War Spin: Jessica Lynch" on Friday, July 18. Hosted by BBC war correspondent John Kampfner, the program (which aired this past May in Britain) presents a highly critical take of the U.S.'s efforts to recover the Army private, including the idea that the rescue was staged for publicity reasons.
COURT TV -- Court TV plans to mine celebrities and their legal troubles with "Hollywood at Large" (Fridays at 7:00/6:00c starting July 11). The series, hosted by former MTV VJ Karen Duffy, "explores the intersection of entertainment, crime and justice in today's popular culture" according to the network's press release. Also cashing in on the celebs-in-trouble genre is a new quarterly series of specials based on the popular web site The Smoking Gun. Mo Rocca ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart") does the honors of hosting the project, the first installment of which kicks off Wednesday, August 20 at 8:00/7:00c.
Crime buffs can look forward to August 25-29 as the channel will celebrate "Forensics Week" with five new episodes of its signature series "Forensic Files" (weekdays at 9:30/8:30c) and the new special "Las Vegas C.S.U." (Thursday, August 28, 10:00/9:00c). Then in October, the network will shift gears with two new reality-game show series: "Faking Out" (premieres Wednesday, October 1) which challenges players to figure out if opponents are lying and "Mind Games" (premieres in late fall) which tests human behavior while hidden cameras record every move.
Finally Court TV regulars can look for the third season of "Dominick Dunne's Power Privilege and Justice" (Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c starting July 30) as well as a one-hour documentary, "Guilty Pleasure: The Extraordinary World of Dominick Dunne" (Wednesday, July 23 at 10:00/9:00c), about the prolific host.
E!/STYLE -- E! has picked up its trio of new summer series "Celebrities Uncensored," "It's Good to Be" and "Love Chain" for an additional seven episodes each. New installments are set to bow this fall. The network however spent most of its time pushing "The Brini Maxwell Show," a new series on its sibling network Style. The project features the fashionista teaching viewers how to redecorate with a retro approach. 65 episodes of "Maxwell" have been ordered for the fall where it will anchor the network's 8:00/7:00c weekday slot. Also new for Style is the mock courtroom show, "Style Court" which bows August 4. The series puts fashion victims on trial and sentences some to makeovers.
GAME SHOW NETWORK -- The growing cable channel announced it will bring the series "Lingo" for a third season in December.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL -- Taking a page from such series as "1900 House," the digital cable network is set to send various families to live in distant locales across the globe for its new series "Worlds Apart" (premiere date TBA). Among those spotlighted were a New Jersey family sent to live in a Kenyan tribal village for a week.
OXYGEN -- Oxygen hopes to keep the ladies home on Friday nights as the cable network is ditching its Friday-night movies in favor of original programming. Beginning in October, hidden-camera series "Girls Behaving Badly" will anchor the night with two episodes starting at 8:00/7:00c, followed by its animated comedies "Life's a Bitch" and "Hey Monie." The night closes at 10:00/9:00c with "Talk Sex with Sue Johanson."
Meanwhile, the cable channel will run repurposed episodes of the upcoming syndicated talk show "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" weeknights at 11:00/10:00c. Also set to join the weekday schedule are repeats of "Roseanne." Episodes of the blue collar comedy will run Monday through Friday at noon and 6:00 p.m. eastern beginning September 22. Lastly, the network teased its first original movie, a dark romantic comedy, "A Tale of Two Wives," which bows Saturday, October 11.
TECHTV -- The upstart cable network hyped its new fall series "Invent This" (premiere date TBA), which profiles - you guessed it - inventors on the cusp of innovation. Woody Norris demonstrated his next generation loudspeaker which can focus on a specific point in a room.
Session information on Hallmark Channel and Sundance Channel were not available.
Upcoming TCA schedule: Tuesday (July 8) - Trio, ABC Cable Network Group, ABC Family, Rainbow Networks, MTV Networks, Bravo, Universal Television Group, Fine Living; Wednesday (July 9) - Tennis Channel, Discovery Networks, Comedy Central, HGTV, A&E Networks, Showtime; Thursday (July 10) - Turner, ESPN, HDTV panel, Lifetime, HBO.