VH1 is getting into the scripted comedy business, finalizing a deal to resurrect the Tori Spelling NBC pilot “Notorious.”
Cabler is in final talks to order eight episodes of the skein, which features the “90210” alum sending up her real-life experiences as a privileged Hollywood daughter trying to lead a normal life. Spelling co-created the project with Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler (“Whoopi,” “Reba”), and all three will exec produce.
VH1 is producing the skein — its first foray into scripted series. NBC Universal TV Studios produced the pilot for NBC, though it is unclear whether it will have a hand in the series itself. Cabler’s Maggie Malina and Mimi James will serve as the execs in charge of production. Lensing is set to begin shortly in Los Angeles for a premiere in early 2006.
In addition, VH1 has renewed “Hogan Knows Best,” wrestler Hulk Hogan’s reality hour, for a second season. Cabler has greenlit 12 episodes — up from the first cycle’s eight — and plans to bow fresh segs next year.
“Hogan” bowed to the highest series premiere ratings in VH1 history (tied with “Celebrity Fit Club”), and last Sunday’s episode attracted 1.6 million viewers. VH1 and Pink Sneakers produce the show. Brad Abramson, Shelly Tatro and Michael Hirschorn exec produce.
As for “Notorious,” MTV Networks Music Group entertainment prexy Brian Graden said he had been tracking the project even before the Peacock passed on it for the fall. Concept and star Spelling were big draws for the music cabler — which will spend more coin for the scripted project than it has ever spent for an original series.
“The idea always sounded very VH1 to me. In spite of her age, Tori is someone we all already have nostalgia for. She’s someone we grew up with on ‘90210,’ ” said Graden, who is looking for ways to transform the music cabler once again.
“It’s certainly more expensive than what we’ve done in the past, but it’s important to keep changing things up on a network like VH1,” he said. “First it was ‘Behind the Music,’ then ‘I Love the ’70s’ and now celebreality. Theatrical movies have rated well when we air them, and I look at that as evidence that scripted projects can work for us.”
VH1 has been steadily beefing up its programming arsenal beyond original reality. Most recently, net acquired repeats of “America’s Next Top Model” and the upcoming “Tommy Lee Goes to College.” In addition, VH1 will air the Monday night episodes of CBS skein “Rock Star: INXS” beginning next week (Daily Variety, Aug. 3).
Regarding the glut of showbiz shows popping up on several cable nets — and whether “Notorious” may be too late to the table — Graden explained the comedy has more to do “with her life as a human being and less about her celebrity.”
Show’s Hollywood moments take place mostly in flashback. In one scene, for example, Spelling recalls the time her mother, played by Loni Anderson in the pilot, once tried to sell her belongings on eBay.
Graden said he’s in the middle of locking up deals for the cast and that Anderson’s participation is uncertain.
“Showbiz is a part of her life, but it’s not the lead storyline,” he said. “The comedy really revolves around her dealings with a womanizing roommate, her family back at the mansion, a nanny she has remained close to and an emerging crush she has.”
Basic cable has yet to produce a winning scripted comedy. FX’s short-lived “Lucky” came close, scoring an Emmy nom for writing. Other entries into the genre this season will also bow on FX, which tonight premieres “Starved” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Spelling last starred in the Hallmark Channel telepic “Family Plan” and the WB comedy “The Help.” Her film credits include Fine Line’s “Trick” and Miramax’s “The House of Yes.”