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MTV greenlights scripted series

'Kaya' is first original drama in five years

Faced with mediocre ratings for a number of its reality shows, MTV has greenlit its first scripted series in five years.

Net, under newly promoted prexy of entertainment and programming Lois Curren, has picked up half-hour drama “Kaya,” about the tribulations faced by a teenage girl when she and her band become rock stars. Between eight and 12 episodes have been greenlit, and the show could debut in the fall, though MTV declined to confirm these details.

Danielle Savre (“Heroes”) is attached to star in the skein created by Deborah Joy LeVine and exec produced by Tony Krantz, Steve Levitan, Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley.

MTV has high ambitions for the single-camera show, which it says simultaneously exposes a “rock star on the brink of destruction and the underbelly of the music industry.”

But pickup has a larger symbolic significance: It highlights how urgently MTV wants to find a hit since many of its current crop of reality shows, such as “Bam’s Unholy Union” and “Maui Fever,” have yet to find a wide audience.

As part of that effort, net also announced Monday that it had elevated Curren. In an interview, exec outlined a plan to jumpstart ratings with a push for deeper programming in several areas. Among those categories are travel, alternative sports, sketch comedy and, most notably, scripted.

Curren also said that in April net will begin to program “more emotionally”; days in its Monday-Thursday primetime lineup will be given over to themes such as coming-of-age shows.

“We want to reward inventiveness as we’ve always done,” Curren said. “(But) we also are looking for newer ways to bond with our audience.” More scripted shows could be on tap, exec said.

While Curren has actually been greenlighting series for several years, Brian Graden, prexy of entertainment for the MTVN Music Group and prexy of Logo, said that the announcement reps “a ratification of her evolution” from a development exec. Graden will continue to focus on strategic issues, especially in digital media.

“Kaya” may be the cabler’s boldest experiment in years in the search for a twist on traditional formulas.

Last two scripted shows MTV undertook were the latenight “Undressed,” which was essentially a college-set telenovela and went off the air in 2002, and “2Gether,” which followed the trials of a fictional boy band and went off the air in 2001.

Net then threw more of its muscle behind reality, as shows like “The Osbournes” and “Laguna Beach” became smash hits.

Graden said “Kaya” has breakout potential precisely because its fictional elements mirror real-life events. “If you look at what’s happening with a lot of pop stars, living out a kind of rebellion, this show really parallels that,” he said. “Will (Kaya) end up shaving her head, or will she find another path to personal redemption?”

Reality continues to occupy a prime spot at MTV. Net also announced Monday that it has greenlit eight episodes of “Taquita and Kaui.” Nonscripted show follows the titular individuals, who met during a season of “Making the Band 3,” as they try to make it in Hollywood.

And MTV has picked up eight episodes of “The Kentucky Kid,” a look at motorcyclist Nicky Hayden, an American who dominates a sport followed mainly by Europeans.

Announcement follows earlier news of greenlights of several reality series, including “Scarred,” “Room 401” and “Me and Mr. Jones.”

“Scarred” takes a look at the personalities behind popular user-generated videos and exemplifies MTV’s effort to find common ground between its digital platforms and programming on its linear net.

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