The M in MTV is coming back. Launched as Music Television, the Viacom cable network phased out its core business with the demise of the music videos. Now it’s bringing it back with a major push for live music and music-inspired programming, which MTV is announcing at its upfront today.
That includes Wonderland, the network’s first weekly live music performance series in nearly 20 years debuting this fall; a a music competition series from top reality producer Mark Burnett; and a newly reimagined version of MTV Unplugged. Additionally, MTV is developing music-themed series Studio 24 with record executive Scooter Braun and music documentary series Year One.
New MTV president Sean Atkins, who is spearheading the effort, said it is being done by popular demand. “Advertisers, fans — they always ask, ‘Can you bring music back?’,” he said. The network is now doing it “through a filter that brings the unique and unexpected while inspired by music and popular culture.”
MTV, which is in a search of a ratings turnaround and clear identity after a rough couple of years, is pumping up the volume of original programming. At today’s upfront, MTV is announcing greenlights for 14 new series and specials, along with a slew of projects in development.
The push has been done with the backing of parent company Viacom. “We have one of the largest programming budgets we’ve ever had,” Atkins said. The network currently has originals on four nights of the week. “We have every intention to increase the hours of original programming,” he added.
That includes a ramp-up in scripted series. MTV today officially confirmed the series pickups of its three pilots, which we reported in December, the Deborah Kaplan/Harry Elfont project, now titled Mary + Jane; Sweet/Vicious fka Little Darlings, created by 27-year-old Jennifer Kaytin Robinson; and Loosely Exactly Nicole, a half-hour toplined by comedienne Nicole Byer of MTV’s Girl Code. All are “tackling subjects of what it’s like to be a Millennial,” Atkins said.
In rebuilding its slate, MTV is betting on big names, teaming with Burnett, Zac Efron, Drew Barrymore, Pitbull, John Legend, Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia for scripted and unscripted projects.
The Mark Burnett music series — a cross between his Shark Tank and The Voice, in which record executives vie for unsigned singers — marks a foray into competition reality series for MTV, best known for docuseries including The Real World, Jersey Shore, Teen Mom and Catfish. Also joining the lineup is dancing competition series Going Off.
Another unscripted area the network is expanding into is investigative crime docuseries, a hot genre following the success of The Jinks and Making a Murderer. MTV has The Investigation, produced by Michael Davies, which examines criminal cases through the POV of Ryan Ferguson, who at 19 years old was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. Atkins calls it “an unexpected version” of the popular pop culture trend.
Here are detailed description of MTV’s greenlighted series and specials and a list of its projects in development:
NEW SERIES AND SPECIALS
An outrageous comedy series in which the most irreverent established and up-and-coming comedians of today have their best stand-up routines acted out. We’ll see hilarious reenactments of the best bits, bringing new life to your favorite moments from stand up history. Produced by A Smith & Co. Productions (“Hell’s Kitchen,” “American Ninja Warrior”).
“The Almost Impossible Game Show”
A hilarious half-hour comedic game show in which contestants complete physical challenges ranging from the absurd to the outlandish to beat the game and win cash prizes. Riding tiny bikes over a mud pit, putting on oversized pants while running full-speed on a giant treadmill and grating a heaping block of cheese onto a plate of nachos by using a grater attached to their derrières are just a few of the outrageous challenges the contestants will face. “The Almost Impossible Game Show” is based on a popular UK format by the same name, produced by Endemol Shine UK company Initial for ITV2.
MTV is producing with Endemol Shine. Executive producers include Rob Smith and Georgie Hurford-Jones for Endemol Shine North America; Matt Odgers and Scott Teti for Left Hook Media.
“Going Off” (working title)
In dance capital North Hollywood, Choreographer Tricia Miranda (Beyoncé, Missy Elliott, Gwen Stefani, Demi Lovato, Iggy Azalea) holds a master class where the best young dancers in the world come to see how they stack up against the rest. In every episode, one winner will be crowned and win a high stakes opportunity to book a professional job and take the next step on their path to greatness. Dave Sirulnick is Executive Producer for Radical Media. Directed by Austin Peters for Radical Media.
“Loosely Exactly Nicole”
Nicole Byer is living the Hollywood dream. Well, Hollywood adjacent – the deep valley to be precise and it’s not so much a dream but a struggle. In this hilarious half-hour comedy, we’ll watch as Nicole, exuding her special brand of confidence and irreverence, demonstrates the hilarious missteps of what it means to be out on your own for the first time. She’ll deal with humiliating auditions, unpaid electric bills, friendship ups and downs, and the battlefield that is Tinder as she slowly but surely finds her voice as a comedian. Christine Zander is Showrunner/Executive Producer. Avi Gilbert (3 Arts) and Christian Lander are Executive Producers.
“Mary + Jane”
Paige and Jordan may be weed dealers, but in their eyes they are entrepreneurs. Their dope delivery app is quickly gaining popularity with foodies, celebrities and – the most particular and crucial consumer – hipsters. This half-hour comedy takes a hilarious look at two girls living in LA: desperate to succeed, find a little romance, and keep their clients happy and high – all with the least amount of effort possible. Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (“Can’t Hardly Wait”) serve as Executive Producers. Television 360 (“Game of Thrones”) is Executive Producer.
“MTV’s The Investigation” (working title)
Love, lust, murder, mystery, suspense…all the makings of a great dramatic story. The catch? It’s not a fictional story. It’s real life. This serialized documentary series follows the journey of alleged wrongfully convicted prisoners fighting for their freedom. We will navigate these cases in an effort to uncover the truth with the highest possible stakes – the lives and freedom of innocent people locked up for life, and the duty to honor the lives of those lost. This series takes an in-depth look into three criminal cases through the unique POV of Ryan Ferguson, who at 19-years-old was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. MTV is producing with Embassy Row. Michael Davies, Debbie DeMontreux, Stacey Altman and Andrew Jenks are Executive Producers.
A response to the heavily produced music of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, “MTV Unplugged” triggered an acoustic music groundswell. The series presented artists in different yet complementary lights showcasing musicianship and songcraft. Through its distinctive format, MTV Unplugged manages the miraculous feat of reaching beyond core fans to connect contemporary artists to heritage audiences and heritage artists to younger audiences in equal measures. The conditions are right in 2016 to do it again. The revitalized Unplugged will restore key elements that made the franchise so groundbreaking in the first place, while resetting the show in the multi-platform video world of today.
“The Outsiders” (working title)
Across America lie people with very different lives and perspectives on the world. In this compelling and distinctive series, we go beyond front doors and shocking headlines. This close ended docuseries will follow eight different families who have very polarizing beliefs, from white supremacists to devil worshipers. MTV is producing with Barcroft Media.
“Shinesty” (working title)
“Shinesty” is a comedic doc series about the young entrepreneurs behind Shinesty, an apparel company in Boulder, Colorado, that did $5 million in sales last year. Shinesty makes “outrageous clothing for life and general ridiculousness” The Shinesty team lives a wild, zero-f*cks-given lifestyle that is every bit as over-the-top as the apparel they create, and this show will take us inside the world of a millennial business doing things 100% their own way. MTV is producing with Critical Content.
“Stranded with a Million Bucks”
Ten cast members are stranded on an island with nothing but the clothes on their back and a million dollars in cash! Those who survive for 40 days will split that money as their prize. The catch? They can buy any supplies they want, but everything is crazy expensive – and comes out of their prize money. Tollbooth TV is producing. Kevin Lee is Executive Producer.
A dark one-hour dramedy about two very unlikely friends taking justice into their own hands and kicking literal ass on their college campus. Jules comes off as the perfect sorority dream girl, but little do her red-cup-toting sisters know, she’s got a completely different agenda come nightfall. Ophelia, your everyday stoner-hacker-hellion, has officially run out of effs to give, and when she discovers Jules may be the masked vigilante exacting justice on campus her interest in college life is re-energized. Amanda Lasher (“Gossip Girl”) serves as Showrunner. Stacey Sher (“The Hateful Eight,” “Into the Badlands”) is Executive Producer and Jennifer Robinson is creator and Co-Executive Producer.
“Mark Burnett Music Competition”
Welcome to the recording studio, where talent is transformed and legends are discovered. At the intersection of music and business, this show gives hip hop’s freshest talent a chance at every musician’s dream: getting signed. Mark Burnett, the Executive Producer of SHARK TANK and THE VOICE, brings us the best of both worlds, with undiscovered artists performing in front of music’s biggest moguls, each eager to sign the next breakout star. But forget the shiny floor stage — it’s all happening in the recording studio in the first of its kind, organic music competition series that breaks all the rules. The yet-untitled series from executive producer Mark Burnett will be executive produced by Burnett and MGM Television with MGM also serving as international distributor.
“Untitled Zac Efron Documentary”
Host and executive producer Zac Efron explores how food has moved to the center of Millennial culture through his own unique lens as an actor, traveller, and food-lover. The project will look beyond the extravagant and obscure in food to explore the artistry, storytelling and journeys in what we eat, and the issues and experiences surrounding what we find on our plates. Executive Producers are Zac Efron, Michael Simkin, Jason Barrett, Brian Volk-Weiss, Cisco Henson and Edwin Zane. Comedy Dynamics and Ninjas Runnin’ Wild are producing.
“Wonderland” (working title)
MTV is launching a new weekly show that re-imagines live music programming and delivers a smart, comedic take on pop culture at large. Co-developed with Comedy Central, Wonderland will bring together the best new music, ground-breaking live performances and young comedic talent under one roof in a highly curated and truly innovative multi-streamed viewing experience.
Located in the heart of Los Angeles, and set in a multi-roomed location, Wonderland does not take place in your typical TV studio but a real living, breathing space that has things happening in every room simultaneously. The weekly show will be a raw, fast-paced, unique hour of entertainment hosted by a group of opinionated tastemakers who live for music as musicians themselves and comedians. Live performances are the beating heart of every episode and this show will provide a platform for artists to experiment with the unexpected, express their creativity in new ways and deliver one-off performances that will become inked in the public consciousness.
Executive Produced by Done & Dusted with MTV.
DEVELOPMENT (Some projects have been previously announced)
“305” (working title)
Executive Producer/Writer: Sascha Penn
Director, Executive Producer: Jonathan Levine
Executive Producer: Pitbull
Co-Executive Producer: David Ortiz
From Endemol Shine Studios, scripted division of Endemol Shine North America
Miami family drama set up at Fox this past season.
“99 Days” (working title)
Production Company: Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Horizon Television
Executive Producers: Leslie Morgenstein, Gina Girolamo (“The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals,” Pretty Little Liars”)
Supervising Producer/Writer: Lila Feinberg
Based on the book by Katie Cotugno
“Blooms” (working title)
Writer/Executive Producer: Walter Mosley
Executive Producers: Flower Films – Drew Barrymore, Ember Truesdell, Nancy Juvonen, Chris Miller
Executive Producer: Diane Houslin
Co-Executive Producer: Max Carver, Charlie Carver, Greg Herman
Studio: Universal Cable Productions
“Greatest Movie Show of All Time, This Week” (working title)
Production Company: Serious Business (“@Midnight” Fusion’s “TRUMP vs BERNIE” debate special) and Seven Bucks Productions
Executive Producers: Dwayne Johnson, Alex Blagg, Jason Nadler, Jon Zimelis, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz, Josh Horowitz
“It’s The Real” (working title)
Executive Producers and Starring: Eric & Jeff Rosenthal
Executive Producers: Jeremy Miller & Dan Cohn (“Entourage”)
Executive Producers: Get Lifted – John Legend, Mike Jackson and Thais Stiklorius (“Underground”)
Executive Producers: Legendary Television (“Love,” “Colony”)
“Pick Me Up” (working title)
Executive Producer/Writers: Dan Gregor & Doug Mand (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “How I Met Your Mother”)
Executive Producers & Starring: Jon Gabrus (“Younger”) & Betsy Sodaro (“Superstore”)
Executive Producer: 3 Arts – Dave Becky (“Broad City,” “Louie”)
“Studio 24” (working title)
Production Company: Pandemo, Inc. and Scooter Braun Films
Executive Producers: Jonathan Slow, Scooter Braun and Scott Manson
Based on a format by FTV Rights B.V.