E! ups fun factor with new look, lineup

Net's 'Wild' about show; reality stars to shine

Almost a year after joining E! Networks, prexy-CEO Ted Harbert has unveiled a refreshed look, tag — “We love it too” — and slate of new series that expand the entertainment cabler’s focus on the Hollywood elite to encompass a broader definition of celebrity.

Summer lineup includes shows about celebrity spawn forced into a “Simple Life”-style scenario, the nightlife at Vegas casino the Palms and the revival of host spot travelogue “Wild On!”

In order to program to the entire gamut of entertainment, E! has undergone a redesign and freshened programming strategy welcoming high-end stars as well as the new breed of celebs — i.e., reality TV stars — into the tent.

Already this year, Harbert revealed he was expanding celeb-free “Dr. 90210,” cabler’s top-rated original series, into a franchise centered on other aspects of the Beverly Hills high life (Daily Variety, March 7). Also indicative of E!’s new take on entertainment, exec is launching “True Hollywood Story” specs dedicated to issues outside showbiz. First hour is dedicated to serial killers.

Kicking off May 28, E!’s on-air environment will forgo the klieg lights and red, white and black palette for a brighter look, faster pace and lighter attitude centered on “fun.” Makeover, the first in three years, is a step away from what senior VP of marketing Suzanne Kolb calls E!’s “somber” authority-in-entertainment approach.

New tag emphasizes that “E! is an all-around entertainment fan itself,” Kolb said. “Hollywood celebrities will always be at the heart of what we do, but even the definition of that has shifted over time. Now celebs include everyone from (former “The Real World” cast member) Trishelle to Paris Hilton.”

“I think the red and black is classy, but it’s not as much fun as our shows are going to be from summer on out,” Harbert said. “The new look will say a lot about where we think we’re going. There’s going to be some irreverence attached to everything we do, but moreover there will be a re-energized spirit.”

Kolb says the redesign is one part of Harbert’s plan to give E! a seamlessness that aimed at ratcheting up the number of minutes viewers stay glued to the channel.

“A lot of people tune in to E!, we just need them to stay longer,” Harbert said.

On tap for the summer:

  • “Fight for Fame,” a competition skein that will give five aspiring actors one day to duke it out to sign with a major talent agency.

  • “Party at the Palms,” a weekly jaunt into the party scene of Las Vegas’ Palms Casino Hotel.

  • “Kill Reality,” a behind-the-scenes look at New Line Cinema’s upcoming horror pic “The Scorned,” which features a cast of former reality TV stars.

  • “Cattle Drive,” a series in which celebrity offspring — the kids of Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel and rocker Pat Benatar are already attached — are sent to work a cattle drive.

  • “The Girls Next Door,” an eight-part series that follow three of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends and their life at the Playboy Mansion.

  • “Wild On!” a 13-episode revival of the former latenight series. Tara Reid is in negotiations to host.

E! has also greenlit several news specials including “What Hollywood Taught Us About Sex” (June 5); “Totally High” (June 12); “That Was Huge” (June 19); “Jennifer Aniston: On Her Own Terms” (June 19); “101 Even Bigger Celebrity Oops” (June 27); “21 Hippest Hot Spots” (June 27); “I Was A Network TV Star” (July 10); and “THS Investigates: Serial Killers” (July 17).