Sci Fi Channel Orders Phantom, Riverworld, and Alice in Wonderland Mini-Series

For a guy in purple tights, The Phantom sure is getting popular. The last time we heard about the gaudy masked crimefighter, some German company was going to make a sequel (or maybe a reboot) to the movie starring Billy Zane from a little ways back. Now comes news that the Sci Fi Channel (soon to be SyFy) has announced a 4-hour mini-series based on the character, along with “Riverworld” and another version of “Alice in Wonderland”, with the first two intended as backdoor pilots.

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“Riverworld,” about a photojournalist transported to a mysterious world occupied by everyone who has ever lived on Earth, and “Phantom” will air as backdoor pilots (titles under consideration for a series order contingent on drawing a large enough audience). It’s the programming model the network has used with success before, as in the case of “Battlestar.”

“The four-hour format allows us to command large dollars around the world for our shows that puts about ($4 million-$6 million) of production on the screen per hour,” said Robert Halmi Jr., president and CEO of RHI entertainment. “It gives the network a chance to try a concept with the same production values, if not better, than you’d get for a series.”

The new “Alice” promises to be different than previous incarnations (more than a couple of which were produced by RHI). The project is written and directed by Nick Willing, who also did Sci Fi’s highly rated “Wizard of Oz” revamp “Tin Man.”

I saw that “Wizard of Oz” revamp “Tin Man”, and let me say — what a piece of crap. Thankfully, I was never a diehard fan of the original “Wizard”, or the story, and likewise with “Alice in Wonderland”, so I’m not going to be coming into the mini-series with any prejudices. It’ll probably be just as “hip”, and chances are they will change Alice’s name to, say, Allie or DJ or something “the kids” will dig. Something stupid like that, most likely.

“Riverworld”, I saw as the 2003 two-hour backdoor pilot and liked it a little, but not enough that I wanted a series base off it. Apparently Sci Fi thinks the story still has potential. A “Phantom” series, now, that could possibly work. If they make the character current, I mean. Then again, how silly would a Phantom show look with the Phantom running around, say, modern New York in that purple tights of his…?

Below: He’s not trying to be mysterious, he’s just trying to hide the purple.