MTV has ordered four unscripted series as it looks to stack the night with “Jersey Shore” compatible unscripted series. Two of the four shows are set well outside of New York and L.A. — Decatur, Ind. and Pike County, Ky. — in a bid to add more cultural diversity to the slate at a moment when Middle America is a hot demo for TV.
“What’s happening in the middle of the country is so different than what’s happening on the coasts,” MTV/VH1 president Chris McCarthy told Variety. “We are always looking for interesting and authentic subcultures that gives us a look at youth culture in this country.”
Thursday has become a beachhead for MTV as it slowly but surely pulls out of its long ratings slump. “Jersey Shore” has averaged 2.1 million viewers per episode in Live+Same Day since its premiere earlier this month. McCarthy said they strategically programmed it in the 8 p.m. slot to allow it to serve as the anchor of a night where MTV saw an opening for big-tent unscripted series. “Jersey Shore” and its new 9 p.m. companion “Ex on the Beach” have created a solid foundation.
“We want to double down on big franchise shows and build a massive night,” McCarthy said.
The new series will rollout in June through the fall, starting with “Too Stupid to Die.” The series revolves around the antics of daredevil Zach Holmes and his young-guy friends in Decatur. It’s a throwback in some ways to “Jackass,” but with greater emphasis on the family lives of five young men and one woman who are part of Holmes’ core circle. The half-hour episodes, produced by Gunpowder and Sky, will air as an hourlong stack. There’s a kind of sitcom-esque quality to the show that makes it a little warmer than “Jackass,” McCarthy said.
“They’re fun. This is a really interesting subculture and hopefully they won’t get us into too much trouble,” he jokes.
“Made in Kentucky” — produced by MTV Studios, Luau and Critical Content — revolves around a core group of six young men and women who are at the crossroads of finishing high school and trying to figure out the next steps in their lives. The rural setting lends itself to perspectives that aren’t often seen on MTV, although it is not a politically charged show. “MTV at its core is a showcase of youth culture and coming of age stories,” McCarthy said. “That’s what this show is.” It’s targeted for premiere in July.
Back on the left coast, MTV will head to “Staten Island 10310” in August to following a group of young adults in the New York City borough that has a small town feel despite its proximity to the nation’s largest urban center. Staten Island’s population is famously a mix of law enforcement and firefighters with those involved in less-than-legal occupations. “In many ways life on the island has such a different texture than the rest of New York,” McCarthy said. “We get to see another side of these kids who are very scrappy.” The show hails from MTV Studios.
“Just the Tattoo of Us,” from MTV Studios and Big Fish, aims to add a colorful competition element to the slate. Based on an international format, the series challenges couples, friends and family members to design tattoos for one another. The participants won’t get a look at the image until after it is inked onto a body part, for good.
MTV’s interest in the property was sparked by research indicating that millennials and Gen Z-ers are among the nation’s most heavily decorated people and that friends and lovers often get new tattoos together. “Tattoo of Us” is aiming for a fall premiere.
The momentum from “Jersey Shore,” which has been renewed for season two, and “Ex on the Beach” has galvanized MTV’s focus on finding great youthful characters in unexpected situations and settings.
“The first piece of this Thursday strategy has exceeded our expectations,” McCarthy said. “We are excited to build on that with these new shows.”
(Pictured: “Jersey Shore Family Vacation”)
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