Webs want their MTVP: Unit scores 1st time out

It passed practically unnoticed, but MTV Prods. (MTVP) — the unit commissioned to produce series product for air off of MTV — enjoyed the rare distinction of batting 1.000 in placing its development roster this spring during its maiden pilot season voyage.

All three of the pilots produced by MTVP in association with its Viacom sister Paramount Network TV sold to network primetime in May, giving MTVP a perfect record in its young life.

The three shows are the NBC sitcom “Jenny” starring MTV alumnus Jenny McCarthy, the UPN comedy “Hitz” starring Andrew Dice Clay and the drama “Three,” which will kick off a new Tuesday-night lineup on the WB in December or January.

Peacock has a ‘Jenny’ jones

“Jenny” has been given an uncommonly generous 22-episode commitment from NBC, the Peacock web obviously was sold on McCarthy’s appeal to the 18-34 crowd. “Hitz” and “Three” have 13-episode orders.

“I’d like to say we’re skilled, but I’m afraid it was all luck,” said Van Toffler, exec VP for MTVP.

“What happened was that our philosophy of trying to be a small boutique shop that carefully develops projects, instead of just imitating the major studios that throw everything against the wall hoping something will stick, paid off in a big way.”

Toffler added that, while the top producers for the networks tend to specialize in star vehicles, “We very scrupulously pick our projects to break through the clutter of the network world and avoid developing projects for established performers. We aim to fund and develop new concepts and talent.”

Whatever the strategy was, it worked. And Toffler and his fellow MTVP programmers, feeling their oats, have compiled a series development wish list of mostly twentysomething-themed shows designed to follow up on the early success.

The programs include a drama series from writer John McLaughlin titled “Five Points,” in association with Paramount Network TV. The studio is allied with ABC on the midseason twentysomething ensemble comedy “Life So Far.”

There also is a midseason comedy project in development for Fox starring former MTV veejay John Sencio (also in association with Paramount) that Paramount Network TV prexy Garry Hart is particularly high on.

“John is a tremendously fresh talent,” Hart said. “We all just fell in love with him.”

The MTVP slate also includes a gritty drama series version of the controversial independent feature “Strays” that involves the film’s writer and star, Vin Diesel.

‘Anatomic’ process

A project titled “Road Hogs” would be shot in the process known as “anatomic,” a robotic form of animation. And “Voices From the Exiled” is billed as a short film anthology based on the stories of first-time writers.

“We also want to develop a news show that will appeal to adults in their 20s and 30s, for people who can’t relate to Ted Koppel and Dan Rather,” Toffler said.

Toffler contends that his unit has been fortunate thus far to work with people such as MTVP vice president Ken Mok and director Dawn Parouse, “who attracted all of these strange and talented people to our shows that sold this fall. We’re also lucky to have a major studio like Paramount as our sister company to be able to support us financially and resource-wise.”

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