The series will be fronted by Perry Kalmus, a high-end college admissions counselor who is behind the Akala startup venture that aims to help students from underprivileged backgrounds prepare for the admissions gauntlet at some of the nation’s top schools.
Kalmus was prominently featured in the Netflix documentary series “Operation Varsity Blues” about the real-life 2019 college admissions scandal that enveloped actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, among others.
“College Whisperer” is billed as the legit version of “Varsity Blues.” The FBI sting operation by that name netted overachieving parents who were charged with paying bribes to help get their children into top schools such as USC, Harvard and Georgetown University.
The series that Mok, Koondel and Perry have shopped to major streamers and cable networks follows eight students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds as Kalmus coaches them through the long college application process. In the wake of the scandal involving a rival college admissions consultant, Rick Singer, Kalmus touts his practice as giving “practical and ethical advice” to more than 15,000 students in 17 years to date. Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering charges in March 2019 and agreed to cooperate with the government’s case.
The 12-episode series will focus on discreet aspects of the admissions journey, from college entrance SAT and ACT testing to filling out applications, writing personal essays and packaging high-school experiences into a compelling pitch for admissions officials. The series will culminate with the students learning the fate of their applications when the envelopes arrive in the mail mid-spring. Kalmus associates Barbara Kalmus and Debon Lewis will also be featured in the series.
“College Whisperer” will emphasize the feel-good aspects of education and the ladder it represents for students from underprivileged backgrounds. Koondel aims to use the show to spotlight Kalmus’ efforts to help students from underrepresented backgrounds unpack what can be a complicated and confusing process.
The importance of a college education is not lost ofn Koondel, who was a longtime CBS and Paramount executive who launched his Sox Entertainment shingle in 2018. He grew up in the foster care system at a rough time for New York City in the 1970s. He was living on his own by his teenage years, but still stayed in high school and was shocked when he wound up being accepted to Syracuse University.
“Attending college saved my life,” Koondel said. ” ‘The College Whisperer’ has the potential to be the most important series on television. The inherent drama wrapped up on the honest pursuit of an ethical admissions process makes for the most compelling television, appealing to a broad audience unlike any other series.”
Mok and Koondel are executive producing the series with Jaimie Glasson (“America’s Next Top Model”). Koondel last year helped orchestrate Judge Judy Sheindlin’s upcoming move from the CBS-owned syndicated “Judge Judy” after 25 seasons to the new court show “Judy Justice” for IMDb TV.
(Pictured: Perry Kalmus)