``This year, we'll have more variety than ever before,'' says Geraldine Laybourne, president, Nickelodeon. In addition to the network's many returning series, the next few months will see a rollout of new shows, in a variety of formats, that will further boost Nickelodeon's original slate, currently about 35% of the schedule.
Among its latest acquisitions, Nickelodeon last week announced a deal with Jim Henson Productions that brings in Henson's catalog of family specials, featuring original Muppet Show characters, and 94 episodes of the animated Jim Henson's Muppet Babies. Network executives are positioning the deal as the first time Henson's classic collection will be featured exclusively on one network. Beginning Oct. 5, Muppet Babies will air weekdays, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Among the more ambitious new programming moves by Nickelodeon is the launch of SNICK, the network's heavily promoted two-hour block of shows designed to target what Nickelodeon executives describe as an underserved young audience on Saturday nights. The SNICK block, which debuted last Saturday (Aug. 15), includes Roundhouse, a variety show airing at 8:30 p.m., and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a horror-suspense anthology airing at 9:30 p.m. Rounding out the SNICK block are Nickelodeon staples Clarissa Explains It All and the animated Ren & Stimpy Show.
Also new to the schedule is Nickelodeon Wild Side Show, a Sunday night nature magazine series that debuted yesterday (Aug. 16). Expected to come on board in October will be Beyond Belief, an international coproduction designed as a sort of ``Ripley's Believe It or Not'' for kids.
Looking further ahead, Tomorrow People, Nickelodeon's planned five-part science-fiction miniseries, is likely to debut on the network in 1993. Details are still sketchy on the series, which will star an up-and-coming Australian child actor.
Nickelodeon executives in the more immediate future are focusing on G.U.T.S., an ambitious new game show housed in an 18,000-square-foot arena at Nickelodeon's Universal Studios, Florida, headquarters. Production begins this week on the series, which will air Saturdays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 19. Also debuting next month will be the strip version of Nickelodeon Arcade, the video game-based series that got its start on the network as a weekly series. Arcade will air Monday through Friday beginning Sept. 1.
Among Nickelodeon projects in development are the new animated properties designed to expand on the success of the network's Sunday morning animated block of The Ren & Stimpy Show, Doug, and Rugrats. Nickelodeon executives say they have not yet seen pilots on any of the new animated projects. [Accompanying pictures show a shot from Roundhouse and Melissa, dressed as Clarissa, sitting cross-legged on a wooden chair, chin on her hand.]
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