A&E Remains Light on Scripted Series, Heavy on Reality

Network sticks to recent tried-and-true formula

Do not expect too many original scripted series from A&E Network—that was the message in advance of the network’s upfront at the IAC building last night (well, the real message was ‘Open Bar and performance by Jennifer Hudson’). A&E is sticking to its tried-and-true slate of a few scripted dramas and a lot of reality shows for the upcoming season.

In fact, only one new drama is in the offing this Summer, and that in the form of a two-part miniseries, a remake based on the 70s Robin Cook book “Coma” and subsequent 70s Michael Crichton movie, about a doctor who discovers something amiss in her hospital after multiple patients mysteriously slip into a vegetative state. That show supplements A&E’s only scripted time slot, currently occupied by "Breakout Kings" and soon to be taken (when the "Kings" season concludes) by “The Glades,” about a Chicago cop forced to relocate to the Florida Everglades, which is being brought back for a second season.

Ever since A&E stopped airing reruns of “Murder She Wrote” six or  years ago, the network’s principal focus has been on reality television. It's done well by the channel – bringing in a much younger audience and propelling A&E to the number four entertainment cable network spot in the 25-54 demo (where previously it was somewhere in the 20s). In keeping with that tradition, A&E is bringing back a number of successful reality shows, including “Storage Wars," about four professional buyers who search for valuables in repossessed storage units; “Hoarders” about people who collect far too many things in their houses, and “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” A&E is also introducing four new nonfiction programs, including a spinoff of Storage Wars called “Storage Wars:Dallas” and a show called “Inlaws,” about married couples who have troubled relationships with their inlaws.

In all, A&E is bringing back eleven series and planning ten new ones for premiere by the end of 2011.

Sources at the network say that roughly 40 unscripted series and ten scripted series are currently in development, but haven’t yet been announced.

A&E's sister Network, History will bring back a number of its own reality programs, including "Top Gear" and "Ax Men," and also introduced a number of new specials and series slated for premier and currently in development. Those include a new series called "Around the World in 80 Ways," a global race show in which two hosts compete to circumnavigate the globe using various modes of transportation; a green series called "Invention USA," about two technology experts who travel the country looking for great inventions, and a miniseries currently in development for 2012 called "The Men Who Built America," about the various historical figures who helped rocket the U.S. into modernity after the Civil War.