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TV networks flock to serial-killer dramas to scare up viewers

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Move over, zombies — serial killers are TV’s new “It” girl.

Serial-killer characters — long used as chum for feeding voracious story-line beasts such as “Law & Order,” “CSI,” “Criminal Minds,” “Bones,” “NCIS” and “The Mentalist” — have emerged as hot new stars of crime dramas for networks looking to “grab people by the shoulders and force them to watch,” as NBC programming honcho Jennifer Salke put it.

Problem is, there’s now such a crush of serial-killer dramas, it’s hard to get noticed.

In addition to Showtime’s preexisting “Dexter,” there’s Fox’s newly added “The Following,” BBC America’s “Ripper Street,” NBC’s coming “Hannibal,” CW’s coming “Cult,” A&E’s “Bates Motel,” and one or two others we’re probably forgetting in the crush.

FX thinks it has the answer: a border-hopping serial killer.

The NewsCorp cable network has ordered “The Bridge,” which is based on a Scandinavian series about a serial killer working on both sides of the Danish/Swedish border.

For FX, the show will be geographically adjusted and the killer will split his time between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico.

Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”) plays Detective Sonya Cross, who, naturally, has an undiagnosed disorder on the autism spectrum. Demian Bichir (“Weeds”) is the family-man homicide investigator for the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, who’s one of the last good men in a corrupt and apathetic police force outgunned by powerful drug cartels.

The pilot’s been penned by two vets of CBS’s “Cold Case”: Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid.

“For years, networks having been trying [to] develop a drama series set on the U.S.-Mexican border without any success,” FX President John Landgraf said in Tuesday’s announcement.

“I’m thrilled to say that Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid have become the first to crack that creative code, and they have done so magnificently,” he continued modestly. “There have been great films set in that world — ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘Lone Star’ come to mind — but never a great TV series. This one is special.”

‘Jenni’ season debut

Jenni Rivera’s reality series will debut its third season on NBCUniversal’s mun2 network in April, just several months after the performer died.

New episodes of “I Love Jenni” will include footage shot in the weeks before she was killed in a plane crash in northern Mexico; subsequent episodes will show her grieving family, including Rivera’s children — Chiquis, Jacqui, Michael, Jenicka and Johnny — and her sister Rosie.

The Los Angeles-born Mexican superstar died in January while working on the reality series, just days after word got out that ABC had signed her to star in a sitcom.

One week before the third-season launch, mun2 will air a one-hour tribute to the singer, which will feature her celebrity pals including “The Voice’s” Carson Daly and “Extra’s” Mario Lopez.

The network is part of Telemundo Media, a division of NBCUniversal.

BBC takes on Dick & Liz

The United States has already had a stab at making an Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton bioflick, resulting in the hash that was Lifetime’s Lindsay Lohan “comeback” vehicle, “Liz & Dick.”

Now, the Brits will show us how it’s done.

BBC Four has announced plans to produce a flick called “Burton and Taylor” that will star Helena Bonham Carter as Liz and Dominic West as Burton.

This movie will zoom in on the twice-married/twice-divorced couple’s 1983 restaging of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” which marked the first time the mercurial couple co-starred on stage; the ill-fated run lasted 63 performances.

“Private Lives” tells the story of a man and woman who have divorced and married others when they discover they’re honeymooning with their respective spouses in adjacent rooms of a hotel.

When “Private Lives” was staged, New York Magazine described the play as an “almost actorproof confection.” But then it would have to be, with Norma Shearer having starred in the 1931 feature film adaptation with Robert Montgomery.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

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