HBO endears itself to doc-makers

Despite it's movie channel roots, the Home Box Office has lately learned the benefits of programming series - think The Sopranos and Sex in the City. Now that the America Undercover strand has been given a regular weekly timeslot, docs may follow in fiction's footsteps.
February 7, 2001

HBO’s decision to move its America Undercover documentary strand from a monthly to a weekly timeslot is great news for non-fiction filmmakers. Set to air on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. for 11 straight weeks, the America Undercover docs have scored a high profile, regular place on the schedule – immediately following popular fiction series The Sopranos.

Julie Anderson, HBO’s director of documentary programming, explains that the scheduling change has more to do with luck than forward-planning. ‘One of the series that we were preparing for the spring wasn’t ready, so this programming time came up. It seemed like a logical solution because documentaries would sometimes get lost in the past, since we didn’t have a normal time that they aired.’

Whether America Undercover will have permanent weekly status remains to be seen, so production spending has not increased, Anderson says. But, she adds, ‘HBO’s profile is higher than ever in the non-fiction world, and creating this series helps.’

Films airing on America Undercover include Taxicab Confessions 2001: All’s Fare in Love & Vegas (Joe and Harry Gantz), Suicide (Eames Yates) and Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen (Shari Cookson). HBO will air four or five additional documentaries as monthly specials following the 11-week run of America Undercover.

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