Mindless matter gets greenlight
Life is “Surreal” for Mark Cronin’s Mindless Entertainment.Shingle has already received the greenlight to begin casting a fourth installment of celeb-focused reality comedy “The Surreal Life.” On Monday, the third season debut of “Surreal” — making its VH1 bow after two cycles on the WB — delivered 1.7 million viewers, ranking as VH1’s top-rated original series preem. Spurred by the boffo early numbers, Cronin says he is already working on a series project revolving around “Surreal Life” housemates rapper Flava Flav and action star Brigitte Nielsen. Mindless is also bolstering its ranks, naming longtime showrunner producer James Rowley partner and recruiting Stephanie Fisch to head development. Additions come in the wake of second season orders for all four of Mindless’ first-run series, which includes the yet-to-premiere PAX skein “America’s Most Talented Kids.” Meanwhile, Mindless is in production on new cycles of IFC’s “Ultimate Film Fanatic” and GSN’s “Extreme Dodgeball.” Rowley has run and/or co-created several projects with Cronin including the game shows “Extreme Dodgeball” and “Cram” on GSN, “Beat the Geeks” on Comedy Central” and “The New Movie Show” on FX. Cronin said Rowley has become indispensable to the growing reality TV operation. “He’s been a close associate of mine for the past three years and I’ve come to rely on his skills as a showrunner,” he said. With the company focused on comedic reality, Fisch’s priority as development chief will be to develop high-concept ideas for the broadcast webs as well as scout comedic talent for potential projects. “Every show I’ve ever done has had a comedic throughline, so my favorite things are light-hearted. The name of the company is Mindless Entertainment for a reason,” Cronin said. “I’m interested in shows that don’t take themselves too seriously.” Fisch’s credits include exec producing the English-language syndie series “Latin Access,” kudocasts for New York Magazine and Elite Model, and events such as “The National Puerto Rican Day Parade” for NBC. She has also directed Latin-language music videos for Celine Dion and Julio Iglesias. “I could have hired one of the usual suspects from the development ranks, but this is a very entrepreneurial company,” Cronin said. “I wanted an entrepreneur like Stephanie in the position.” Mindless recently came on board to produce the reality contest “Comedy College” with Merv Griffin Enterprises (Daily Variety, April 7). Skein will be pitched to nets in the next few weeks. Company also recently delivered the gameshow presentation “Have You Got Balls?” for Comedy Central. Tim Stack (“Son of the Beach”) co-created and hosted the planned strip in which male contestants are pulled from a sports bar to compete in various challenges. In addition, Mindless is working with Seth Green on the reality ping-pong competish “King Pong.” Earlier this year, shingle produced the NBC pilot “Life’s Too Short,” a half-hour starring “Austin Powers” thesp Verne Troyer. Shingle last produced “Greek Games” for GSN under a three-series deal, with the third skein yet to be determined. (Josef Adalian contributed to this report).