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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Five TV spin-offs bring escapism
By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Gary Sinise and David Caruso
The three versions of CSI will be screened from the start on Five US
UK broadcaster Five is launching its first digital-only channels - but what can TV viewers expect from Five US and Five Life?

Channel Five was the UK's first new terrestrial network in nearly 15 years when it launched with a fanfare in March 1997.

The Spice Girls sang of "the power of five", Family Affairs was the flagship soap opera and Jack Docherty was championed as a late-night talk show host.

The channel had its moments, but its content was considered lowbrow.

Dawn Airey, its former director of programmes, famously described the schedule as containing three Fs - films, football and, shall we say, frolicking.

Almost a decade on, Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh Spice are a distant memory.

Family Affairs ended last year and Docherty was usurped by his holiday stand-in - an unknown comedian by the name of Graham Norton.

Quality output

But something happened at Five, the rebranding adopted by the broadcaster in September 2002.

It became the home of some of the best US dramas on TV.

Las Vegas forensics show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its Miami and New York spin-offs were acquired as staples in the channel's schedule.

Ralph Fiennes and Jennifer Lopez
Maid in Manhattan is showing on Five Life's first Saturday evening
The Shield, Law and Order, Prison Break, Grey's Anatomy, Big Love and Criminal Minds also featured - and the list goes on.

So the launch of a spin-off network, Five US, focusing on "the very best of American television", appears a shrewd move.

From Monday, it will offer a schedule which is "stripped and stranded", with coordinated blocks of programmes designed to attract viewers at specific times.

So, for a dose of each of the three CSI programmes, tune in on Friday nights. Perhaps it will be named Forensic Friday - that's the sort of thing Five would do.

Regular films

The schedules for the opening fortnight suggest that Saturday and Wednesday will be devoted to Hollywood movies.

Adam Sandler features in two of the channel's first films - Punch-Drunk Love and Anger Management - and there is also The Cable Guy, with Jim Carrey, plus 1988's Young Guns.

The cast of Love My Way
Australian drama Love My Way will be on Five Life each Sunday night
Monday appears to be dedicated to new material.

William Hurt and William H Macy star in adaptations of eight short horror stories in Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

And Dick Wolf, the man behind Law and Order, has created Conviction, a drama about a group of lawyers in New York.

There is US sport - NFL, NBA and Nascar action - on weeknights at 1900, while comedy appears each afternoon with double helpings of Joey, Happy Days and Pimp My Ride.

Lifestyle shows

Five is also launching a second digital channel - Five Life - which, again, features programmes in clusters and is "skewed towards a female audience".

There is chat - with Trisha Goddard and Ellen DeGeneres - from 1400 to 1800 each weekday, followed by two hours in which property reality series feature heavily.

The cast of Conviction
Conviction is the latest drama from the creator of Law and Order
Factual documentaries are ever-present, along with spin-offs of regular Five series such as Make Me a Supermodel.

And weeknights at 2200 feature the more garish end of the factual spectrum.

If you are gripped by titles such as Eating Themselves to Death, The Woman With Half a Face or even Plastic Surgery Ruined My Wife, this is very much the place to be.

Australian soap Home and Away will be shown at 1830 from Monday to Friday, a day ahead of its terrestrial run, and there are six hours of children's programming every morning.


Really, Five Life is not much different to the main Five channel - but with everything grouped together more tidily.

For me, Five US is more attractive, but then being a man removes me from Five Life's target audience.

Both promise programmes which are suited perfectly to plonking yourself on the sofa for a little escapism.

But it will take a little time to establish whether the channels, which are full of shows you may well have seen before, attract enough viewers to become essential viewing in an already overcrowded market.

Five Life will launch on Sunday with the following channel numbers: Sky Digital 208, Freeview 36, digital cable 186.

Five US will be available from Monday on these channels: Sky Digital 207, Freeview 35, digital cable 185.

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