Reality projects alive and kicking

NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC pact for new series, pilots

Reality TV ain’t dead yet.

Despite several recent midseason misfires, webheads are still picking up unscripted projects at a brisk clip. Among the latest projects in the hopper at various nets:

  • The U.K.’s Granada TV has secured a six-episode order from NBC for “American Princess,” an hourlong skein that mixes elements of “Cinderella” and “My Fair Lady” as a group of regular Janes is sent to England for a sort of royalty boot camp.

  • CBS has given a pilot order to the Gay Rosenthal-produced “America’s Strangest Families,” which each week will feature three oddball clans showing off what makes them so weird. Viewers get to pick the freakiest of the freaks.

  • Fox is talking to Granada about shooting a pilot for a U.S. version of ITV’s big hit “Saturday Night Takeaway,” which stars a duo known as Ant and Dec. Skein would be a loud, brassy variety show not unlike long-running Univision hit “Sabado Gigante.”

  • Eye has begun casting for “Love Thy Neighbor,” an hourlong pilot from producer Phil Gurin (“Weakest Link”) that pits neighboring families with longstanding beefs against one another in a series of competitions. Both get their current mortgages paid off, while the winning clan gets a new home.

  • ABC has pacted with the BBC to produce a pilot for “Nice Package,” a dating show in which potential couples get the chance to live each other’s lives for two days before choosing to date them.

Emphasis on expansion

The two Granada projects demonstrate the U.K. giant’s increasingly intense efforts to duplicate its Brit success Stateside.

“We are extremely committed to bringing our nonfiction business here to the U.S.,” said Antony Root, prexy of Granada Entertainment USA. “We’ve put a lot of resources into it over the last nine months.”

That includes tapping Curt Northrup VP of alternative for Granada USA. Northrup will work with Granada international production topper Paul Jackson to bring both “Ant and Dec” and “American Princess” to the U.S.

Working the season

Root said “Princess” will unfold as a six-episode arc in which average American women “are taken to the U.K. and taught how to live as a princess.” Contestants will be judged by a panel of royalty experts, live in “a stately home” and have the chance to “work the season,” Root said, referring to the British summer social circuit.

“I think it’ll be highly entertaining,” he said, noting the show will combine various dramatic elements, from romance to those associated with makeover shows. “It’s a fantasy everyone has, and there’ll be a lot of opportunity to have fun (with the idea).”

Root declined to discuss the possible importation of “Ant and Dec,” but Fox reality topper Mike Darnell said the net hopes the duo — who hosted the original U.K. versions of “Pop Idol” and “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here” — will be the key to Fox launching a successful variety show.

“We’ve been looking for a ‘Sabado Gigante’-like show, and these guys know how to do it,” Darnell said. “We’re hoping they’ll launch as big personalities here.”

As for the two CBS projects, Eye insiders said “America’s Strangest Families” would “weave together the stories of three families every week. They’re people who are completely strange, who you can’t take your eyes off … and yet they’re still very relatable.”

One possible family is a clan in which the son is a genius who has a microchip implanted in his head. Each episode will let viewers vote on their favorite families, with losers eliminated.

Producer Rosenthal and her GRP Prods., who are repped by Sherry Berman and UTA, have several projects in the works at CBS (Daily Variety, Jan. 28).

New projects join a long list of potential skeins in the works at all six webs. This summer promises to be particularly crowded, as nearly two dozen nonfiction skeins bow on both broadcast and cable webs.

UPN Monday scheduled a summer bow for “America’s Next Top Model.” Skein will premiere Tuesday, May 20, at 9 p.m., following the series finale of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Some attrition

Despite the genre’s continued strength, some projects have fallen by the wayside in recent weeks as nets assess their needs.

NBC has decided not to go forward with “The Fast and the Furious,” a street-racing show tied to the release of the sequel to the blockbuster pic.

Peacock announced the project in January but was unable to find a way to translate the energy of the pic into a TV series, industry insiders said. High cost of insuring the project also may have played a role in the decision.

In addition, ABC is no longer expected to air “The Will” this summer, though the project remains in development for next season.

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