MTV making play for scripted dramas

Network has greenlit production on Levine-Krantz pilot

For the first time in several years, MTV is dipping its toes into scripted drama.

Network has greenlit production on a pilot for an untitled one-hour from Deborah Joy Levine (Lifetime’s “The Division”) and Tony Krantz (“24”) about an up-and-coming female singer dealing with the pressures of sudden fame.

In addition, MTV announced a pickup for new laffer “Human Giant,” ordering eight half-hours that star Gotham-based comedy act Human Giant in a series of funny shorts first made popular on the Web. Skein will premiere in early 2007.

Scripted project from Levine and Krantz centers on Kaya, a 22-year-old singer endeavoring to make the leap from overnight sensation to bona fide rock star.

“She’s trying to make it, but at the same time crumbling under the weight of her own celebrity. Show is the anatomy of a rock star,” Levine said. Show will incorporate flashbacks to the singer’s teen years and gigs with her first band while she faces similar challenges on a larger scale in the present day.

Not unlike Disney Channel’s femme-centered music show “Hannah Montana,” series in success would spawn an album of original music. Casting is under way for the lead role and Levine says producers are looking for thesps who can sing.

MTV exec VP of series development and animation Tony DiSanto and Meghan Cole will oversee the project, which is moving forward to pilot after more than a year in development.

Project reps the first major stab at producing a quality drama for MTV. Channel’s most memorable attempt at a scripted serial was 1999’s 11 p.m. strip “Undressed,” a low-budget soap about the sexual relationships of teens. Sporadic attempts at low-cost serials like “Live Through This” and “Spyder Games” also fizzled.

MTV declined comment, but insiders say that there are several other live-action scripts at various stages of development.

Levine, who is repped by manager Larry Schuman, last executive produced the ABC Family skein “Beautiful People” and is currently writing a telenovela pilot for Fox called “The Secret Lives of Working Wives.” Krantz is producing a weekly version of Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” for ABC (Daily Variety, Sept. 12).

As for “Human Giant,” show will be executive produced by and star Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer and Jason Woliner. Act’s short clips — including “Shutterbugs” and “The Illusionators” — gained the group notoriety online and at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade.

“Our goal in developing this into a TV show was to stay true to that viral-video feel and attitude and to keep the vision pure, while giving them the tools and resources to create on a larger scale,” DiSanto said. “It’s fast-paced, laugh-your-ass-off humor with a rebellious rock ‘n’ roll attitude.”

DiSanto, Liz Gateley, Dave Becky, David Miner and Tucker Voorhees, Tom Gianas will also exec produce.

Elsewhere, MTV has shifted its “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge” franchise to Thursdays at 10. Skein previously aired on Monday nights. New edition, dubbed “The Duel,” premieres Oct. 12.

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