NEW YORK -- On Fine Living, there's no Robin Leach in sight.
This new cable channel doesn't define ''fine living'' in terms of being rich and famous. Nor is it gauged by snob appeal.
Instead, the Fine Living network operates on the premise that since a good life can't be bought, but must be chosen, viewers benefit from better-informed choices.
''Everybody, regardless of economic category, is looking to improve the way they live, and a lot of that process is about informatio, rather than money,'' says Ken Solomon, Fine Living's president.
Owned by Scripps Networks, Fine Living sticks to the model of sister channels Home & Garden Television, Food Network and Do It Yourself Network: It claims a broad category with potentially wide appeal (don't call Fine Living a ''niche'' channel), then divides that subject into areas of interest: adventure, personal space, transport, favorite things and every day.
The Los Angeles-based operation airs 16 half-hour series including ''The Great Adventure'' (offbeat yet plush vacations); ''The Genuine Article'' (the best buy in products and services); ''Radical Sabbatical'' (profiling people who make a major life change to pursue their passions); and ''Back to Basics'' (sharing secrets to making life less stressful and more enjoyable).
A viewer encountering the cable channel at any hour will find original programming with a personal, story-oriented approach, filled with useful tips (what Solomon calls ''takeaway information''), and supplemented by a corresponding Web site.
You might see:
A family of modest means with school-age children on a yearlong bicycling quest throughout the Lower 48.
A corporate exec who, after asking herself what she would do ''if money and time weren't an issue,'' quickly hit upon her plan: open a yoga studio. Then she did it.
A grown man who built a beautiful treehouse, complete with stain-glass windows and solar-powered TV.
Tips for getting the most out of a hotel stay. For custom-framing artwork. For being a ''raw foodist.'' For playing croquet.
And here are Rob and Emily Hache, a Venice, Calif., couple who gave up successful careers and their home to hit the road in search of America. Their odyssey, which they tape as 90-second video dispatches for the network, brought them to New York this week for a four-day vacation on Fine Living Island, a 5,400-square-foot ''private tropical paradise'' temporarily anchored off lower Manhattan in the Hudson River.
This stopover is a promotional stunt to mark Fine Living's debut in New York (as well as parts of Los Angeles and elsewhere) on Time Warner Cable. DirecTV also began carrying the network recently, boosting its potential audience to 13 million homes.
Fine Living signed on last March. Burdened by the dismal advertising market and the ailing economy, that was a dicey moment to start any business venture. Worse: In the somber aftermath of 9-11, the idea of ''fine living'' might have been dismissed by viewers as frivolous. Was the network really ill-timed? On the contrary, Solomon insists.
''Now more than ever, people realize that success isn't its own reward,'' he says. ''They're looking for balance and ways to streamline their life. Americans are no longer just giving lip service to the notion that 'today is the first day of the rest of my life.'
Watching the channel will certainly get you thinking, even dreaming. When you meet the woman who built her oceanside home with a glass floor that looks down on the water, or meet the man who left his dreary career to start a winery, you may find your reaction isn't just, ''So that's how you do it,'' but also, ''What new thing would I like to do?''
And as Solomon says, ''Whether or not you choose to act, you are empowered just knowing that you could.''
Fine Living has a uniformly reassuring, feel-good quality about it, a calm style and a visual seamlessness -- one program eases into the next. For many viewers, this could be their default channel: what the TV stays tuned to when you aren't watching something else.
But will Americans' heightened need to rethink their priorities lend urgency to Fine Living as an information resource? Will a particular interest -- be it travel, vintage cars or a simplified lifestyle -- translate into loyal viewing of the series devoted to that topic?
It's a little early to tell. But at least one media analyst declares Fine Living a valuable arrival on the TV landscape.
''Reassessing what's important in your life and making changes -- that's hot right now,'' says Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. ''The Fine Living Channel might be helpful doing it.''
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EDITOR'S NOTE -- Frazier Moore can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org
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