When NBCU Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer added oversight of Comcast’s cable networks (including E!) to her NBCUniversal cable empire in January of 2011, she said she would add scripted dramas to E!’s lineup.
On Monday, when E! unveiled its new-season plans to advertisers in New York, the network also unveiled its drama-series nominees for next year. Among them, E! is developing a new “modern-day” “Mr. Smith,” by which we presume they mean “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The series is from “The West Wing” and “E-Ring” writer (and former D.C. lobbyist who has worked for Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. George Mitchell) David Gerken.
“Mr. Smith” is one of Capra’s great whistleblower films. The late ’30s flick stars James Stewart as an idealistic kids’ paper publisher and head of Boy Rangers (euphemism for Boy Scouts). Smith is named to replace a deceased U.S. senator representing an unnamed Western state, because a political boss thinks he will be easy to manipulate. In Washington, Smith is taken under wing by a crooked senator from his state, who was his dad’s best friend, only the senator then tries to frame Smith when he gets in the way of a dam-building graft scheme in an appropriations bill.
So, how’s E! going to update that tale? Gerken’s “Mr. Smith,” E! said, is about “a self-made billionaire with a penchant for hooking up with lobbyists in the nation’s capital.”
That’s quite an update.
Also among the slew of scripted drama series E! said it was developing is “Dorothy” — billed as an update on “The Wizard of Oz.” Only this Dorothy is no longer a girl who — owing to her love for her little dog — gets tornado-tossed into Oz, where she has to kill a witch to get the wizard, who’s holed up in the Emerald City, to get her back to Kansas. On E!, Dorothy is a chick from Kansas City who falls for some guy and moves with him to the Emerald City to work in his dubiously named Emerald Hotel.
Also in the works, John Wells’s “Anne of Hollywood,” based on the Carol Wolper novel. It’s a retelling of the Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII relationship, with all the “elements of Anne’s true story,” E! said — “love, passion, intrigue, betrayal, infidelity and conspiracy” but, apparently, minus the whole beheaded-by-husband thing. And of course, “Anne of Hollywood” is, as the name suggests, set in present-day Hollywood, because, E! says, it’s “the flashiest, most treacherous court of all.”
New from E!
On E’s non-scripted front, its late-night star Chelsea Handler’s NBC sitcom, “Are You There, Chelsea?,” may be headed for cancellation. But Whitney Cummings, star of the NBC comedy “Whitney,” is getting her own weekly E! talk show.