Originally created 09/24/01

In wake of tragedy, cable bumps violent movies



Add this phrase to your television lexicon: "Due to recent events, programming schedules are subject to change without notice." And that's not an exaggeration.

Even though the commercial networks are back to regular programming (mostly series repeats) in prime time, news specials are scattered throughout the evening. And, of course, breaking news could disrupt everything.

And while the networks have been faced with crazy-quilt schedules, cable also has been forced into a revision mode, mostly in the movies area.

Films that have any hint of terrorist actions are being dropped from the lineups and replaced with gentler fare.

A prime example is USA Network, never known for its kinder, gentler edge.

Dumped from the prime time schedule Thursday is "The Siege," which deals with Arab terrorists whose carefully timed explosion so disrupts Manhattan that the government imposes martial law and sets up concentration camps for bombing suspects.

In a bit of understatement, USA Network President Doug Herzog told Daily Variety: "We've got to be sensitive to what's going on."

Other feature films postponed by USA include two based on Tom Clancy novels - "Clear and Present Danger" and "Patriot Games," both starring Harrison Ford; and "Blown Away" featuring Tommy Lee Jones.

TBS has bumped "Lethal Weapon" and "Conspiracy Theory" and replaced them with milder productions, "City Slickers" and "Look Who's Talking."

TNT, combing through its extensive film library to determine if any scheduled movies are inappropriate, has a couple of old John Wayne Westerns - "The Shootist" and "The Cowboys"- waiting in the wings.

TNN (formerly The Nashville Network) has yanked at least two scheduled movies - "Martial Law" and "Chrome Soldier" - and substituted "Star Trek" movies.

Rerun episodes of "ER" and "NYPD Blue," also on TNT, are being closely examined to eliminate shows that might seem callous in the current terrorist climate.

Even Howard Stern is feeling the programming pressure.

One of his "Son of the Beach" comedy episodes on FX, dealing with a spoof on terrorist Osama bin Laden, will be removed from the repeat cycle.

One of the many interesting programming developments coming out of last week's terrorist attack will be viewer response to HBO's "Band of Brothers," the $120 million, 9-week production that premiered Sept.9.

HBO, which also has invested nearly $15 million in marketing and promotion of the flick, has withdrawn most of its TV spots because of the attack.