USA Network is so pleased with the effects of the first year of its Characters Unite campaign, which combats prejudice and discrimination, that it’s dramatically expanding the initiative. This year’s version will include themed original programming, multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) sponsorship opportunities, more digital content and grassroots community events.
Bonnie Hammer, president, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions, announced the move Wednesday at the Cable Show.
A large-scale Characters Unite celebration, on and off air, is planned for November, newly designated Characters Unite Month. USA, its distributors and partners will shine a spotlight on efforts to fight social injustice and bridge cultural divides with long- and short-form programming; extensive digital content including an interactive game; a high school curriculum; and special community events.
Beginning this fall, USA also is teaming up with New York City’s nonprofit storytelling organization the Moth to produce "Mainstage" shows in five select markets across the country. Each event will feature local and celebrity storytellers sharing a true tale of overcoming prejudice or discrimination. USA and the Moth will train high school students in each of the five select markets to tell their own Characters Unite-themed stories. After-school workshops will culminate in an all-school storytelling assembly, in order to start a dialogue about important issues of diversity, tolerance and respect.
Also in November, USA will unveil a new PSA campaign featuring a call to action for viewers to take a stand against bigotry and intolerance. It also is developing original programming — special episodes of USA original series and/or movies in the spirit of Characters Unite. Later this month, USA will hold a meeting in Washington, D.C., to bring together Characters Unite’s 20 NGO partners and producers/writers from USA’s original series to discuss relevant topics, themes and messages to be included in storylines of upcoming shows.
Characters Unite draws on the legacy of USA’s original "Erase the Hate" campaign of the 1990s.
* * *
Disney Channel has scheduled the world premiere of “16 Wishes,” starring Debby Ryan, for Friday, June 25, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Ryan (“The Suite Life on Deck”) plays Abby Jensen, a teenager who can’t wait to grow up. But when she’s handed the chance to make all her wishes come true, Abby quickly learns the importance of being careful what you wish for.
The cast includes Jean-Luc Bilodeau ("Kyle XY"), Anna Mae Routledge ("Harper’s Island") and Karissa Tynes ("Aliens in America").
The MarVista Entertainment production was written by Annie DeYoung (Disney Channel’s "StarStruck," "Princess Protection Program") and directed by Peter DeLuise ("Stargate SG-1").
* * *
Reality series “Fear Factor” will begin airing July 24 at 8 p.m. on cable channel Chiller. The NBC Universal-owned Chiller plans to air the show’s 139 episodes in back-to-back bursts on Saturday nights.
Hosted by Joe Rogan, “Fear Factor” features a competition between contestants from across the U.S. who battle in extreme stunts designed to challenge them both physically and mentally. If a contestant’s fear prevents him or her from completing the stunt, that player is eliminated. Success brings him or her one step closer to the grand prize: $50,000.
“Fear Factor” originally aired on NBC from 2001 to 2006. Chiller is devoted to delivering “around-the-clock scares” with its lineup of movies, anime, dramas and TV series including “Tales From the Dark Side,” “Twin Peaks” and “Millennium.” It’s currently available in 34 million homes.
* * *
Ken Burns’ "The Tenth Inning," the follow-up to his nine-part 1994 “Baseball” documentary, finally will air on PBS Sept. 28-29, the final weekend of the regular season for Major League Baseball.
The two-part, four-hour addendum focuses on developments in baseball since the 1990s, both on and off the field. Topics include the long-awaited World Series title for the Boston Red Sox and the 1994 labor dispute, as well as the steroids scandal.
Burns directed the program with Lynn Novick; both co-wrote and co-produced with David McMahon.
Roger Angell, John Thorn, George Will, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bob Costas return for “Tenth,” and are joined by new interviewees Keith Olbermann, Joe Torre, Pedro Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki.
* * *
The contestants for ABC’s “The Bachelorette” who will be competing to win the affections of Ali Fedotowsky have been revealed. The sixth edition of the reality series premieres Monday, May 24, at 9 p.m.
There’s Kyle, an outdoorsman. Jason, a hunky skier. Frank, an aspiring writer. Roberto, a romantic Latin. And, from the most unusual-sounding town, general contractor Jesse, from Peculiar, Missouri.
The 25 suitors are:
Chris H., 27, real estate developer from Vancouver, Canada
Chris L., 33, landscaper from Cape Cod, Mass.
Chris N., 29, entrepreneur from Orlando, Fla.
Craig M., 34, in dental sales, from Sarnia, Canada
Craig R., 27, lawyer from Philadelphia
Derek, 28, sales manager from Warren, Mich.
Derrick, 27, construction engineer from San Diego
Frank, 31, retail manager, from Geneva, Ill.
Hunter, 28, internet account executive from San Antonio, Texas
Jason, 27, construction consultant from Denver
Jay, 29, lawyer from Barrington, R.I.
Jesse, 24, general contractor from Peculiar, Mo.
John C., 32, in hotel business development, from Issaquah, Wash.
John N., 27, in engineering software sales, from Wichita, Kansas
Jonathan, 30, weatherman from Houston
Justin, 26, entertainment wrestler from Toronto
Kasey, 27, advertising account executive from Clovis, Calif.
Kirk, 27, sales consultant from Green Bay, Wis.
Kyle, 26, outdoorsman from Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Phil, 30, investment manager from Chicago
Roberto, 26, insurance agent from Charleston, S.C.
Steve, 28, sales representative from Cleveland
Ty, 31, in medical sales, from Nashville
Tyler M., 25, catering manager from Austin, Texas
Tyler V., 25, in online advertising, from Chelsea, Vt.
Hosted by Chris Harrison, "The Bachelorette" is a production of Next Entertainment in association with Warner Horizon Television. Mike Fleiss and Martin Hilton are the executive producers.
* * *
“Tosh.0,” featuring merciless host Daniel Tosh exposing and skewering the endless array of ridiculousness on the Internet, returns to Comedy Central with 16 new episodes starting Wednesday, June 2, at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Among upcoming "Web Redemption" segments are World of Warcraft Freak Out (Tosh tries to determine if the WoW freak-out video was real or fake); Worst Comedian Ever (Darryl Bluett, christened the "worst comedian ever" by the Internet, comes to L.A. and is trained by Tosh and a select few to become a better comedian); and Zombie Kid Likes Turtles (Tosh gives the "I like turtles" kid the turtle day of his life and sets the stage for him to make perfect sense with his iconic phrase).
Tosh inked a multilevel deal with Comedy Central that includes an original one-hour stand-up special that will be filmed June 12 in San Francisco and premiere on Sunday, Oct. 3. He also will launch a national stand-up tour this fall. The network also announced the renewal of "Tosh.0" for a third season.