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19 July 2005

CBS Pops Corn with Sunday Movies
By Rick Porter

In the, uh, tradition of "Locusts!" and "Spring Break Shark Attack," CBS will salt its Sunday-movie franchise with a handful of "popcorn" movies in the coming season, particularly early on.
The movies include a quasi-sequel to "Locusts!" called "Vampire Bats," scheduled for Halloween weekend; the true-crime story "The Hunt for the BTK Strangler"; "Mayday," a thriller based on a Nelson DeMille novel; and the previously announced November miniseries "Category 7: End of the World."

CBS isn't going completely the way of the Sci Fi Channel's Saturday night -- the network still has three "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentations scheduled for 2005-06, along with a miniseries about Pope John Paul II, two new holiday-season offering and two follow-ups to last year's successful "Stone Cold," with Tom Selleck reprising his role as small-town police chief Jesse Stone.

But as CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler explained to reporters Tuesday (July 19) at the Television Critics Association press tour, the "high-concept" movies are a way to counterprogram against ABC's "Desperate Housewives"-led Sunday lineup. "We know we're up against a juggernaut on Sunday, so we're trying some high-concept and popcorn movies there," she says.

"Locusts!" and "Spring Break Shark Attack" did reasonably well among younger viewers, and Tassler figures the action-oriented fare might appeal to the audience that watches CBS' National Football League coverage on Sunday afternoons in the fall.

The, er, highlight of the popcorn slate -- Tassler is already making self-effacing quips about it -- is probably "Vampire Bats," scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 30. Lucy Lawless and Dylan Neal will reprise their "Locusts!" characters, who have moved to a college town in search of a quieter life after her brush with the mutant insects of the previous movie.

That, of course, is not to be, as Lawless' voracious-insect expert-turned-professor is called back into action after a student is found dead, his body exsanguinated. She realizes that the culprits are, in fact, bats who have mutated into bloodthirsty killers after drinking tainted water.

The "Locusts!" producing team of Frank Von Zerneck, Robert Sertner and Jill Tanner are behind "Vampire Bats" as well.