Cabler gets a bit more 'Surreal'

HOLLYWOOD — Coming off its highest-rated February in history, VH1 is dishing up more “Celebreality.”

Cabler has greenlit fresh cycles of hit series “The Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Fit Club” — anchors in the cabler’s powerhouse “Celebreality” Sunday lineup — in addition to new reality TV parody “BSTV,” as well as a latenight strip and several returning shows.

Large number of pickups is a testament to VH1’s corner on the celebrity and pop nostalgia niche that net execs set out to target two years ago. Thanks to new hits and past shows — “Bands on the Run, “Bands Reunited” and the “I Love the …” franchise — viewership has shot up more than 80% over the past two years.

“It’s a credit to everyone here that this strategy has worked so well for us,” said MTV Networks Music Group entertainment prexy Brian Graden. “Two years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to bring the volume of shows that we can now, because there was nothing to renew.”

“Celebreality” block launched Jan. 9 to VH1’s biggest numbers in five years. Second season debut of “Surreal Life,” from Mindless Entertainment and 51 Pictures, grabbed 2.2 million and ranks as the channel’s highest-rated original series telecast in history. Together the block of Sunday night originals (“Surreal,” spinoff “Strange Love” and “Fit Club”) is averaging an impressive 1.4 million viewers — up 143% in total viewers from the previous year, and up 125% in adults 18-49.

Casting is almost complete on new edition of “Surreal,” scheduled to begin shooting the first of its 10 episodes at the end of the month. Eight segs of “Fit Club,” from Granada TV, will go into production later this spring. Meanwhile, an extension of “Strange Love,” the “Surreal” spinoff centered on the bizarre romance between Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav, is in the works for a new pair of housemates.

May fare

With “Surreal” and “Fit Club” slated to return in the summer, Graden will unleash in May two new weekly series — reality TV sendup “BSTV” and Jerry Hall starrer “Kept” — to fill the Sunday night hot spot.

“BSTV,” produced by VH1 in association with Ealing Studios, tests the lengths to which people will go to become a reality TV star. A combination of “Punk’d” and Spike TV’s “The Joe Schmo Show,” skein will goof on average folk and celebrities as they audition for what they believe to be legitimate casting calls and pilot tapings for new reality shows.

“It’s a satirical show and it’s played for comedy. But as you watch, you realize that nothing seems off limits for reality TV,” Graden said. “It’s sort of amazing how far the genre has come and what people are willing to do.”

Ealing’s Rob Moore and Paul Garner exec produce with VH1’s Jim Biederman, Jill Leiderman, Michael Hirschorn and Jim Ackerman.

‘Kept’ men

The 10-episode relationship reality show “Kept” follows 15 men who compete to win a six-figure allowance from the ex-Mrs. Mick Jagger and a life of luxury for a year (Daily Variety, Oct. 15).

VH1 has also ordered “Love Lounge,” a 10-episode latenight strip centered on the truth of sex and love in America. Panelists will discuss common preconceptions and dispel myths related to issues of cheating, sex and relationships. Show bows May 16.

VH1 has greenlit 20 more episodes of “Motormouth,” strip show that captures people, unbeknownst to them, rocking out in their cars; 10 more episodes of celeb bioseries “The Fabulous Life”; and renewed flagship pop nostalgia show “Best Week Ever.”

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