“Punk’d” co-conspirators Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg are bringing their gonzo brand of reality TV to the WB.
Frog has greenlit six episodes of a top-secret makeover/dating skein conceived by scribe Nick Santora (“Law & Order,” “The Sopranos”) and produced by Kutcher and Goldberg’s Katalyst.
Skein one of several major developments at the shingle, which is looking to extend its success with “Punk’d” — still one of MTV’s top-rated shows after three seasons — to various dayparts and multiple networks:
- Katalyst has inked a two-year overall development and production deal with 20th Century Fox Television. As part of the pact, 20th spinoff division Fox 21 will work with Katalyst on low-cost scripted projects and reality skeins such as the Frog series.
- Eli Holzman, who most recently ran Miramax Television and developed Bravo’s upcoming “Project Runway,” has joined Katalyst to head up the shingle’s small-screen operations.
- Shingle’s in production on “You’ve Got a Friend,” an adaptation of the U.K. format “My New Best Friend” that’s been quietly given an eight-episode greenlight by MTV. Skein, in development since January, could premiere as early as this fall as part of the net’s top-rated “Sunday Stew” programming block.
- Katalyst is developing a hidden camera format at ABC that’s being targeted as a potential latenight player.
- Fox Broadcasting has given Katalyst a blind script commitment for a future project.
The WB reality skein is on the fast track at the Frog, which production set to begin in December for a potential late winter debut. “For Love or Money” co-producer 3 Balls Prods. has come on board to serve as showrunner of the unscripted comedic project.
While staying mum on details, WB Entertainment chief David Janollari said the skein “hits smack into the core of our demo.”
“I’m a huge fan of the attitude ‘Punk’d’ conveys, and this is a chance for us to take the attitude they’ve invented and bring it into network television for the first time,” Janollari said.
Goldberg said Santora brought the idea to Katalyst, which then worked with him to develop the project before pitching it to nets. Santora will exec produce with Kutcher and Goldberg; Fox 21 will oversee and distribute the skein.
“There are no gimmicks to this show, no twist,” he said. “It’s just a straightforward franchise with mass appeal.”
Frog is looking to step up its unscripted development. Upcoming projects include Mike Fleiss’ “BMOC” and “High School Reunion 3” and Jamie Kennedy’s “Wannabees” project.
As for the hiring of Holzman, Goldberg said he and Kutcher met with about 15 potential execs and found Holzman best suited for the gig. “He’s got great instincts with material and relationships with top-drawer writers all over town,” Goldberg said.
Holzman’s recent development at Miramax includes an adaptation of “Nanny Diaries” and the upcoming season of “Project Greenlight” for Bravo.
Deal with 20th and the relationship with Fox 21 will help Katalyst in its bid to set up projects beyond reality skeins, with Goldberg particularly interested in hybrid projects that mesh scripted and unscripted elements.
Fox 21 topper Jane Leisner called the Katalyst camp “idea machines.”
“They come in with 10, 15 ideas and, remarkably, all of them are kind of viable,” she said. “They also come at things with a younger, more aggressive slant.”
Goldberg said Katalyst wants to make shows that can break through the clutter of the billion-channel universe.
“It’s a tough climate out there, and our game plan is to create watercooler shows that can turn into franchises,” he said, adding that the shingle plans to be “extremely picky about writers.”
“There are really only a handful of (top) writers out there, and a lot of them have deals at 20th,” Goldberg added.
Shingle, repped by Endeavor and Untitled, is eyeballing a handful of scripted ideas and will begin pitching to networks soon.
On the feature side, Katalyst is set up at Beacon and just wrapped production on “The Dinner Party,” which stars Kutcher and Bernie Mac.
(Denise Martin contributed to this report.)