Viacom’s CMT said it would double the amount of original programming it has on the air, launching a new summer concert tentpole event and try to strike a chord with new kinds of scripted series such as “Still the King,” a comedy starring Billy Ray Cyrus, and “Million Dollar Quartet,” a series about the world of 1950s Memphis, where the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll came of age.
“We are looking at country as a state of mind,” said Anthony Barton, CMT senior VP of marketing and creative, in an interview. “There is a sense of quality and craft that starts with the music.”
The new “Concert of the Summer” will take viewers inside the sheer scale of a stadium concert, said Brian Philips, president of CMT. “It’s the biggest thing we will do all year, and that’s what we want to document.” Executives wanted to chronicle “a modern phenomenon in country music that would have been unheard of a few years ago. Our biggest stars can now, much like the Rolling Stones, can fill baseball stadiums. It’s something to see.” The concert will be added to a lineup of music showcases that include “Crossroads,” “CMT Artists of the Year” and “CMT Music Awards.”
The network, which was recently aligned with a group of Viacom cable networks aimed at families and kids, will also launch its first batch of scripted series. The comedy “Still the King” debuts Sunday, June 12, at 9 p.m. ET. The series features Billy Ray Cyrus, Joey Lauren Adams, Madison Iseman, Lacey Chabert, Leslie David Baker, Kevin Farley, Travis Nicholson and Jon Sewell in a series centered on a washed-up one-hit wonder (Cyrus) who crashes back into the life of his ex-wife (Adams) and finds he has a daughter.
“Million Dollar Quartet” is a coming-of-age story set in the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll. The series is produced by Leslie Grief and directed by Roland Joffé. CMT has cast Drake Milligan as young Elvis Presley, Kevin Fonteyne as Johnny Cash, and twins Christian Lees and Jonah Lees as cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, respectively. Additional cast members will be announced at a later date.
CMT’s documentary slate this year includes the three-night event “NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed” as well as SXSW-selected original documentaries “The Bandit” in August and “Chicken People” in November.
In the unscripted arena, CMT will launch “The Dude Perfect Show” April 14 at 9 p.m. ET. The series comes from producer Rob Dyrdek and follows five viral hopefuls as they showcase how they cook up their next crazy idea. The debut season will feature appearances from Luke Bryan, Chris Paul, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aaron Rogers and more. “I Love Kellie Pickler,” from executive producer Ryan Seacrest, returns for a second season in August, and “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team,” returns for its 11th.
Pictured above: Kellie Pickler