'Gotti' shingle sells five skein openers

GRB Entertainment, the reality shingle behind A&E hit “Growing up Gotti” and Fox’s upcoming David Foster project, has sold series pilots to A&E, CMT, the History Channel and MTV.

GRB specializes primarily in docudramas but recently produced the upcoming projects “Invasion Iowa,” a reality hoax show for Spike TV starring William Shatner, and “Intervention,” a series about addictions for A&E. Both skeins premiere in March.

Exec VP of creative affairs Michael Branton says GRB is in an especially good position this year given the growing popularity of docudramas. A&E began its turnaround via such shows as “Airline” and “Family Plots.” “The Osbournes” and “Newlyweds” continue to be big business for MTV. Even HBO got into the act last fall with “Family Bonds”

“More networks than ever are receptive to the docudrama genre. Broadcast and cable networks are seeing the value of having a face they can marquee every week,” Branton said, pointing to such personalities as Victoria Gotti and Paris Hilton.

At A&E, GRB is in the middle of shooting the pilot for “Mister Justice” about the real-life exploits of New York private eye Bill Stanton.

Then there’s a muscle car makeover project and “Plan B” set up at CMT. Auto series follows country music duo Montgomery Gentry as they attempt to open up their own muscle car body shop in Nashville, Tenn. Meanwhile, “Plan B” will feature “The Apprentice” season one alumnus Nick Warnock as he and his “turnaround team” make over small family-owned businesses.

‘Trail’ blazing

GRB describes the History Channel pilot “On the Trail” as an “Easy Rider”-style series that trails biker Stan Elsworth as he travels around and explores the United States.

And at MTV, shingle has set up the strip “I Call Bulls***,” a reality series in which people try to dispel what they feel have been big lies told to them by their friends.

“Everyone at the networks is working really hard to brand themselves with a person whose world they can take you into,” Branton said. “At the same time, all of these interesting and entertaining characters are making themselves available to sharing their lives on television.”

Development veep Brant Pinvidic said GRB is also developing personality-driven series around former heavyweight champion James Toney and a Beverly Hills socialite trying to break into country music.

Eighteen-year-old company, run by prexy-CEO Gary R. Benz, is poised to produce more than 60 hours of original programming in 2005 for the U.S.

GRB last produced the Fox series “Next Action Star” with Joel Silver’s Silver Pictures TV. GRB is in production on “Untold Stories of the ER” and “Second Chance,” both series for TLC, and National Geographic’s “Expeditions to the Edge.”

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