New takes on an iconic Washington-set Frank Capra flick, “The Wizard of Oz” and Anne Boleyn’s just-under-three-year marriage to Henry VIII are among the in-development-for-2013 scripted series that E! network announced Monday.
In its non-scripted beachhead, E! has ordered a docu-soap about the least-interesting and least-famous, but most-married, Jonas brother; a weekly half-hour talk show starring NBC sitcom star (and “2 Broke Girls” co-creator) Whitney Cummings; and a talent competition series from “American Idol” exec producer Nigel Lythgoe.
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.”
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.
Naturally, Cummings will have celebrity guests and a sidekick: comic Julian McCullough.
Cummings’s “Love You, Mean It” will debut late this year, and will run on Wednesday nights with “The Soup,” the long-running E! show now hosted by Joel McHale — who, not coincidentally, also stars in the NBC comedy series “Community.”
“I’m really excited to be able to say [almost] whatever I’d like on TV again,” stand-up Cummings said in Monday’s announcement.
Meanwhile, Kevin Jonas (a.k.a., The Other One) is getting his own docu-soap, “Married to Jonas,” from — you know it’s coming — Ryan Seacrest. It will chronicle the young couple’s suburban domestic life in New Jersey, and Kevin’s re-teaming with his brothers, Joe (The Hot One) and Nick (The Talented One), as they get ready to record new music.
“I vividly recall believing from the very first time that I met them that the Jonas Brothers would, without a doubt, become a worldwide cultural sensation,” Seacrest insisted in Monday’s announcement.
And Lythgoe, Seacrest’s “American Idol” exec producer, is bringing “Opening Act” to E!, in which Lythgoe’s A-List Artist Development Team — himself, Mary J. Blige and producer Antonina Armato from Rock Mafia — will comb the Web to find talented amateurs and give them the chance to open for a “top music superstar,” as opposed to all those “bottom music superstars.”
Each week, they will send Olivia Lee — E! assures us she’s an “acclaimed television personality,” but you may remember her as that chick doing the hidden-camera bits on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” — to surprise these performers with the news that their online clips have impressed. She’ll tell them that they’re being brought to Hollywood for “performance boot camp,” leading up to a one-night-only performance as opening act for a superstar — including Nicki Minaj, Rod Stewart, LMFAO, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Jason Mraz and Gym Class Heroes.
“With ‘Opening Act’, we are democratizing a notoriously impossible process,” Lythgoe said in Monday’s announcement.
HBO has given early second-season 10-episode pickups to the new comedies “Veep” and “Girls,” after just two and three telecasts.
“Veep,” created by Armando Iannucci and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the new VPOTUS, opened with 1.4 million watching.
“Girls,” starring creator Lena Dunham (“Tiny Furniture”) and starring the daughters of famous people, is about the humiliations and triumphs of young chicks trying to make it in New York without the benefit of famous parents. It’s opening clocked about 900,000 viewers. Both first episodes wound up accumulating just less than 4 million viewers across various runs of the pay cable network.