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Zee English to pump up programming with new shows, specials

MUMBAI: While NBC's enormously popular Friends has already stepped into the 10th and final season on US television, Zee English is all set to welcome the ninth season of the Emmy-winning comedy about six close-knit young friends living in New York City.



That apart, the English entertainment channel will also unveil new shows like Curb your enthusiasm and the next season of Sopranos.

While the ninth season of Friends premieres on Zee English on 10 October, the channel will be airing a special curtain raiser which takes the audience through each season of the critically acclaimed sitcom.



Starting 2 October, the week long curtain raiser is anchored by actor Rahul Khanna and ex-MTV VJ Nafisa Joseph. Taking a cue from the popularity of the Emmy curtain raiser anchored by Gul Panag, the Friends curtain raiser attempts to take viewers down memory lane.



Produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane production in association with Warner Bros Television, the show, which debuted on US television in 1994-95, began airing in India in 1998.

The popularity of the show prompted the launch of the Indian version Hello Friends on Zee, produced by actor Ajit Pal. Unfortunately, audiences failed to warm up to the weekly that launched on 6 September 1999. Starring MTV VJs Cyrus Broacha, Nikhil Chinnapa, Maria Goretti, Aparna Tilak, Simon Singh and Anil Dimbri, the spin-off received a lukewarm response vis-a-vis the Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer show and was subsequently pulled off.

While the channel is yet to announce the dates, the candid, unsparing and self-deprecating Curb Your Enthusiasm is the next launch of the season. The show brings the off-kilter comic vision of the Larry David co-created and co- produced another Zee English alumnus Seinfeld.



The series blurs the lines between reality and fiction, as David (playing himself) and a cast of real and fictional characters are followed around Los Angeles by a ubiquitous camera that chronicles the private, often banal world of a relatively public man. It features footage of writer Larry David at home, at work and around town, as he gets into predicaments with fictional and real-life personalities. The show shot without a script, also stars Jeff Garlin as manager Jeff Greene and Cheryl Hines as wife Cheryl. The cast is given scene outlines and often improvise lines as they go.

Speaking about the popularity of sitcoms, a channel spokesperson says that the 'association' factor with the sitcom is the prime reason of its popularity with the metro audience. While the channel remained noncommittal about whether they intend to get the spin-off Joey on board, Zee MGM will definitely be airing the final season of Friends next year. The channel has also planned a couple of contests around the ninth season.

Based on the friendship of three men and three women who frequently gather at each other's apartments and share sofa space at Greenwich Village's 'Central Perk' coffeehouse, the show has been one of the regular features on the channel.

While new acquisitions like Six Feet Under, Hidden Hills and The Norm Show have managed to register, the channel continues with reruns of the NBC show Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the ABC show Full House beside Friends, owing to the popularity of the old shows.

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