Cabler goes forward with scripted slate with nine shows in development
Looking to complement its current reality-only fare, E! is making a major push into scripted programming with nine series in development, including projects from John Wells, Kevin Spacey and Phillip Noyce.In addition, the NBCUniversal cabler has greenlit two nonfiction series: “Opening Act,” from reality uberproducer Nigel Lythgoe, and “Married to Jonas,” about the nuptials between Kevin and Danielle Jonas. Show is produced by Ryan Seacrest Prods. Official announcements were made Monday night at the cabler’s upfront in Gotham. Net, which will undergo a new brand campaign and relaunch its website, plans to have a scripted show on the air by 2013. Another goal is to add 100 hours of original progamming by the end of next year as well. E! has long had success with reality skeins and sequels that center on the Kardashian family, as well as other B-level stars, but the net has decided to shake up its reality-only strategy ever since NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairwoman Bonnie Hammer became boss following the merger with E!’s previous owner, Comcast. Three of the scripted shows in development are from Warner Horizon while three others hail from Fox Television Studios. Only two are from Universal Cable Prods., even though E! is part of the NBCUniversal family. CBS Prods. is the home to the other project. Wells’ production shingle and Warner Horizon are behind “Anne of Hollywood,” based on the bestselling novel by Carol Wolper. Story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII is reset in present-day Hollywood. Also from Warner Horizon is “Dorothy,” which is inspired by the classic “The Wizard of Oz” tale. In this version, written by scribe Natalie Krinsky, a girl from Kansas City falls for a man and moves with him to the Emerald City to work at the Emerald Hotel. In “Juror #9,” a media frenzy ensues after a man kills a woman who has been blackmailing him over a shady business deal. The Warner Horizon project comes from writer Brian Ross and exec producer Danny Canon. Spacey and Michael De Luca are behind “Upstarts,” about the 1990s digital gold rush in the Silicon Valley. Story will be written by Joey Falco and is from Universal Cable Prods. Also from UCP is “King David,” from writer David Gerken. Story is about a modern Mr. Smith, a billionaire who arrives in Washington and hooks up with a handful of lobbyists. The first of three projects from Fox Television Studios is “Fascination Street,” about a pair of brothers who try to discover what happened to their band’s lead singer. Noyce exec produces with Josh Reims and writer Steven Kijak. Other fare from FTS are “The 400,” about the rise of the Vanderbilt dynasty, from writer Emily Whitesell and exec producer Anne Thomopoulos; and an untitled project about Hollywood assistants from writers Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin, and exec producer Gary A. Randall. Finally, cop procedural “Amy Devlin Mysteries” is from writer Daniel Barnz. CBS Prods. is producing. On the reality greenlights, the premise of Lythgoe’s “Opening Act” involves discovering musical talent that will have the opportunity to open for a top musical tour. Show is set to premiere July 9. With the help of Lythgoe’s development team, which includes Mary J. Blige and producer Antonina Armato from Rock Mafia, the act will be sent to Hollywood to participate in a performance boot camp. If deemed worthy, they will be asked to open for solo acts such as Nicki Minaj, Rod Stewart and Brad Paisley. “We are democratizing a notoriously impossible process, pulling back the curtains on a consistently fascinating industry and affording aspiring artists the chance of a lifetime,” Lythgoe said. Lythgoe will exec produce with Steve Schnur, Simon Lythgoe and Kary McHoul. In “Married to Jonas,” the young couple’s life will be captured both at home and in the recording studio. Show will debut Aug. 19. “The series presents a unique look at a young couple and their families from two entirely different worlds, one small town and one dealing with international fame, coming together as one and starting a whole new life together,” said E! programming president Lisa Berger. Series will be exec produced by Seacrest, Stephanie Bloch Chambers and Adam Sher. Also announced by E! is new talkshow “Love You, Mean It With Whitney Cummings,” which will begin later this year. The comedian, actress and producer will riff on pop culture, celeb gossip, relationships and other topical matters. She’ll have a regular sidekick, Julian McCullough, as well as visits from celeb guests and comedian friends. “Love You” will bow in the Wednesday 10:30 p.m. slot, paired with “The Soup.” In March, E! ordered “Mrs. Eastwood & Co.,” which centers on Dina Eastwood – wife of film icon Clint Eastwood – and daughters Francesca and Morgan. Half-hour show, produced by Bunim/Murray Prods., is set premiere May 20 and cameras will rotate between the Eastwood’s homes in Carmel, Calif., and Los Angeles. Net has ordered 10 episodes.