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51 Minds Promotes Three Execs as It Dives Into Home Improvement (EXCLUSIVE)

Endemol Shine North America subsidiary 51 Minds Entertainment is bumping three executives up the ranks as it embarks on the new year, Variety has learned exclusively.

Chris Kinsella has been tapped as executive VP of development, rising from his previous post as senior VP of development. He played a key role building “Truck Night in America,” “The Grand Hustle,” “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” and “Broken Skull Challenge.”

Stepping into the role of senior VP of development now is Jessica Bofshever, previously VP of development. She first joined 51 Minds as director of development in 2014, and had prior to that served as director of development for production company Good Clean Fun.

Hanan Abdelaal has been named the company’s new VP of development, rising from director of development. She has been with the company since 2016. Before that, she developed and produced shows for ABC, FOX, AMC, VH1, E! and MTV for 51 Minds’ parent Endemol Shine North America.

“We are coming off one of our strongest years ever at 51 Minds and a great deal of that success can be attributed to our amazingly talented development team,” said 51 Minds President Christian Sarabia in a statement. “Chris, Jessica and Hanan are three of the best in the business — creative, forward-thinking and delivering some of the most original, fresh content in our industry.”

The studio worked with 11 networks in 2018, including Bravo, VH1, Paramount Network, BET and more. Sarabia told Variety that he is excited about working with those players this year — in particular HGTV, which he said is one of his personal favorite networks to watch at home.

Amid hearty public demand for home improvement shows, HGTV recently announced that it had picked up six half-hour episodes of 51 Minds’ latest production, “Unspouse My House.” The series, which debuts late this year, will focus on renovating homes in a quest to help residents consciously uncouple, so to speak, from any traces of their former significant others.

Or as host and designer Orlando Soria described the show in a recent Instagram post, it’s “a half-hour design series in which I help a recently single homeowner renovate their house and MOVE ON FROM THEIR STUPID BORING OLD RELATIONSHIP.”

According to the HGTV casting call, the show is currently looking for fresh singletons seeking “the revenge renovations (they) deserve.”

“We brought (HGTV) a format that is really, I think, a different entry point for them that they haven’t done and that they’re really excited about as much as we are,” Sarabia told Variety.

The still-strong viewer gusto for home improvement shows can be tied to their relatability, he said. Essentially: everyone’s doing it, or wants to do it.

“It’s either aspirational, or it’s what you want to do to your home, or you’re going through it yourself, or you’re thinking about doing it, so I think it’s always going to be there,” said Sarabia. “I just went through a home renovation and it’s not as easy as we make it look on television – knocking the cabinets down is not that easy with a sledgehammer – but it’s so relatable.”

51 Minds’ other popular unscripted shows include Bravo’s “Below Deck” franchise (“The last season just went through the roof,” he said), History Channel’s recently launched “Truck Night in America,” and BET’s “T.I. Grand Hustle,” a continuation of its unscripted franchise surrounding the rapper. “T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle” ran on VH1 for six seasons, and a follow-up series, “T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle,” premiered on the network last October.

T.I.’s sticking power can be attributed to his presence as an “amazing family man,” said Sarabia. The shows have journeyed from the rapper “getting out of prison to him being this really amazing father to (raising) his blended family, and I think people really connected with that.”

But the reality-show game has changed from even five or six years ago, he said, which makes it important for productions to allow story lines to breathe and for characters to “really grow.”

“The audience is so savvy to stuff that’s overproduced or poorly produced,” said Sarabia. “It knows when they’re being told a lie, and knows when it’s fake, and knows when we’re forcing something on them, and so I think you have to be so genuine now. Reality has to go back to reality.”

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