You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

E! Prepares To Mix Scripted Fare Into Reality-Show Recipe

NBCUniversal’s E! said it would launch three new series and a set of specials as part of its new programming in the year ahead while it continued to focus on development as it casts about for a new hit franchise on the order of its various programs centered around the colorful Kardashian family.

The network, which the cabler’s parent has been seeking to turn into a more upscale venue since receiving the network as a result of its purchase by Comcast Corp. in 2011, is placing a bet on scripted fare – a significant maneuver for a network that has largely depended on reality series to stock much of its schedule.

The Royals,” E’s first original scripted drama, is set to launch in early 2015. Starring Elizabeth Hurley, “The Royals” is produced by Lionsgate and will depict a set of members of a modern-day royal family as their lives are buffeted by a 24/7 media cycle as well as social-media dynamics. The series is executive produced, written and directed by Mark Schwahn and executive produced by Brian Robbins and Joe Davola.

New programs will “continue to feel like they bring you the fun, celebrity access people want from the channel, whether it be through a comedic lens or an event lens,” said Suzanne Kolb, president of E! Entertainment, in an interview. She described “The Royals” as “the perfect scripted show for us” and said network executives will “continue to round out” the schedule with “reality frachises” and specials that play up live entertainment. And the network’s Kardashian antics will continue, Kolb said.

A second scripted series in development that executives are focused on is “Songbyrd”; a pilot was recently completed. The show tells the story of Lauren Byrd, a prolific writer of love songs whose own love live is a mess. The ensemble cast includes Bethany Joy Lenz, Rumer Willis, Robert Hoffman, Wes Brown and Tracie Thoms. From Universal Cable Productions,”Songbyrd” is from writer Krista Vernoff and executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “Songbyrd” features the experiences of Grammy winner Diane Warren, who serves as a consulting producer. Director is Andrew McCarthy.

E! also has a scripted miniseries about the rise of fashion’s Gucci family in development, along with a New York-based edition of the network’s “Rich Kids” series.

Ad buyers think E! has been in an experimental mode in recent months, trying to find new programming ideas to make it less reliant on its Kardashian series. Among the programs it has tried are reality series featuring the family of actor/director Clint Eastwood; athlete Ryan Lochte; and Kevin Jonas, the eldest of the Jonas Brothers, and his new bride. “It’s a case of needing to refresh” after finding a groove with the Kardashian family, said, Sam Armando, senior vice president and director of strategic intelligence at media-research agency SMGx. “It is taking a bit longer than they might have liked.”

In June, E! will launch “Escape Club, a one-hour series in which 12 twentysomethings get to escape their lives and pursue their dreams at a tropical resort. In the new one-hour series Produced by Shed Media, Pam Healey, John Hesling, Dan Snook and Matt Odgers are executive producers.

In September, the network will launch “Botched,” an eight-episode one-hour series that focuses on the quest to correct extreme plastic surgery gone awry. Plastic surgeons Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif will work with victims of ill-fated cosmetic work in an attempt to undo and fix their results. Executive produced by Alex Baskin, Douglas Ross, Greg Stewart and Mark Herwick for Evolution Media.

New specials set for the months ahead include a 90-minute documentary on male entertainers in Las Vegas, called “Men of the Strip.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Richard Branson Jason Felts

    Kaaboo Festival Acquired by Virgin Fest Owner Jason Felts

    Kaaboo, which says it has “shifted the music festival paradigm by offering a highly amenitized festival experience for adults,” is now under new ownership. Virgin Fest founder and CEO Jason Felts (pictured above with Virgin founder Richard Branson) has fully acquired all of the festival brand assets through an affiliate of Virgin Fest, the music [...]

  • Live Nation Chief Michael Rapino Talks

    Live Nation-Ticketmaster Chief Michael Rapino Talks Dept. of Justice Inquiries

    Back in August, Senators Richard Blumenthal of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota made the most recent of several requests for an Department of Justice antitrust investigation into competition in the ticketing industry, and it soon became clear that the target of the probe was Live Nation and its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster, which [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

  • 2020 TV Season Preview

    How 2020's Fall TV Season Is Already Shaping Up

    Aiming to stand out in a crowded field, broadcasters this season have leaned on the stability of their schedules and the return of established hits. But for many of the same reasons, they’ve also begun to seed the ground for next year’s crop of shows, considering that top performers like “How to Get Away With [...]

  • Taylor Swift Talks Scott Borchetta’s ‘Sneaky’

    Taylor Swift Talks Scott Borchetta's 'Betrayal,' 'Sneaky' Deal With Scooter Braun

    While Taylor Swift’s sprawling Rolling Stone cover interview is largely about her music and herself, there’s also plenty about the personal and business dramas of the last three years. And not surprisingly, Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta — who this summer inked a reported $300 million deal for the Big Machine Records catalog and with [...]

  • Kevin Spacey Trial

    Massage Therapist Who Accused Kevin Spacey of Groping Dies

    The massage therapist who accused Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him during a session in October 2016 has died, according to a court filing. No further information was disclosed. The anonymous massage therapist filed suit in September 2018, alleging that Spacey had forced him to grab Spacey’s genitals and tried to kiss him during a [...]

  • Comcast Xfinity Flex

    Comcast Drops $5 Monthly Fee for Xfinity Flex Video-Streaming Set-Top for Broadband Customers

    Comcast will hand out one free set-top box for broadband subscribers to access Xfinity Flex, its video-streaming product for internet-only customers, as it looks to punch up the value of its high-speed internet business. Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, announced the new strategy at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference Wednesday in New York. “One of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content