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MUMBAI: Looks like Zee English is taking a page out of AXN's notebook. The Subhash Chandra broadcaster will go through a major programming shift this year, which see around 60 per cent of the content, dedicated to action. However each show has a character of its own whether dealing with a cop or prisoners.

Speaking to indiantelevision.com on Zee English programming head Lena Joshi said that overall this year two shows would be launched every month. Investment in programming would go up by 70-80 per cent over last year. "We conducted very detailed research in the English market place. What we learn was that action series work better with Indian audiences than comedy.

"That is because comedy tends to be talky and you have to follow each word. Earlier we used to have 70 per cent of the content devoted to comedy. Now it will be 60 per cent of action, 25 per cent comedy and the rest will be for drama."Some of the titles that have been lined up are Renegade, The Fugitive and Oz. Renegade is about an ex cop who goes on an adventure across the US on his Harley Davidson. It is similar but different to Knight Rider. Oz deals with a prison and the lives of its inmates and how they got in there. This will premiere post October while Oz will air post July. Oz has been executively produced by Barry Levinson Rainman and could well prove to be a gritty firecracker.

For next year the broadcaster has reached a major agreement with Paramount for shows like the Dead Zone and Insider. The broadcaster is also looking at a lot of supernatural thrillers. As reported earlier the channel will launch Witchblade from 24 May at 8 pm, which falls into this genre. It also looking at a show called Immortal.

The channel is also looking to complement the action with family drama titles. Next month the family can tune into Gilmore Girls. The drama centers around the relationship between a thirty year old single mother and her teen daughter living in Connecticut.

The other show that will air next month is Tintin from 17 June at 8:30 pm. What is interesting is that the channel is not just targeting the kids but also adults. Another show for later this year is Summer Land and will premiere in the US this summer. The channel is trying to get it for October. This deals with a girl who has to baby sit her sisters kids.

Programmes like this work according to Joshi because Indians strongly relate to the family unit. Besides MGM and Paramount, Zee English is also talking to Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The AXN reference made at the start is also on account of the fact that Joshi was impressed at the kind of response that Wild On has been getting. "The other night I went to a pub and Wild On was playing. Everybody was glued to the television. We are planning to acquire properties along the lines of Wild On. The shows will be a little more bold and provocative in nature but not crass."

Going back to the reasons for the channel reducing its dependence on comedy Joshi said that Indians have trouble identifying with the language of comedy. "If you see the scenario no British comedy has worked. That is because they are too sophisticated and niche. Therefore our comedy will be more slapstick like the upcoming Mad TV. We will also definitely be getting the 10th season of Friends but I cannot talk about the launch date. As far as the spinoff Joey is concerned I will have to see the ratings that the show gets before making a decision." 

Joshi confirmed this writers worry that only sophisticated people would go in for Six Feet Under as the general audience has not developed this kind of taste. However the channel is persisting with the show. The second season has just started.

As far as dubbing is concerned Joshi mentioned that series did not do well when they are dubbed as the flavour and the essence of the series is lost. However action series could be dubbed in the future depending on the response. As far as the channel id and logo is concerned Zee English was revamped last year. This year more work will be done in a couple of months so that the look is more aspirational, international, vibrant, younger and yuppy keeping in mind the fact the shows are skewed towards a younger demographic.

The work will be outsourced to production houses in Singapore and Hong Kong.

As far as marketing is concerned hoardings will be taken out for Witchblade. Ads will also start appearing cinema halls. The radio and print will be used at a later stage. For Mad TV the channel is planning to have on-air and online contests. Winners can get copies Mad Magazine.

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