EXCLUSIVE: Viceland is entering the scripted series arena with comedy What Would Diplo Do? (working title), starring, written and executive produced by James Van Der Beek and also executive produced by Grammy-winning musician/DJ Diplo.
Viceland — a joint venture between Vice Media, which runs the cable channel, and A+E Networks — has ordered six episodes of What Would Diplo Do?, which Van Der Beek and Diplo executive produce alongside Diplo’s long-time manager Kevin Kusatsu and music video helmer Brandon Dermer. Van Der Beek will also serve as showrunner, Dermer will direct. The series is slated to premiere later in 2017.
In WWDD, described as “Louie meets WorldStar HipHop crossed with This Is Spinal Tap, Van Der Beek plays a fictional version of DJ superstar Diplo in a collection of parables about life as told through the eyes of guy who can bring 60,000 people to their feet… but kind of sucks one-on-one. “The show doesn’t take itself too serious but it’s not cynical,” Van Der Beek told Deadline.
WWDD, which will be fully scripted with room for improv, stems from A Day in the Life, an online concert promo for Diplo’s Mad Decent Block Party starring Van Der Beek and produced by the same creative team, which was released last year. You can watch it below.
“I had that day free, I did a quick rewrite and found that it came easily,” Van Der Beek said about being approached to do the video. “It was fun and that was it, I never thought it would lead to a series.” But when Viceland approached Kusatsu with the idea, after an initial surprise, the auspices behind the video jumped at the chance. “It seamed like a really fun opportunity,” Van Der Beek said.
Van Der Beek has played comedic versions of himself, most notably on the ABC series Don’t Trust the B— and on Funny or Die.
“I’ve enjoyed deconstructing my own image quite a bit over the years, but to have the chance to do it with a global megastar like Diplo who’s letting us to do something fun and ridiculous that few people have the balls to allow is crazy,” Van Der Beek said. “To get to work with this creative team within a Vicdland aesthetic is fun on a whole new level.” In addition to his collaborators on the series, Van Der Beek credits the top showrunners that he had worked with as an actor for showing him the ropes as he makes his debut as a series creator and showrunner. He is currently in the writers room for WWDD, with casting on the series set to begin shortly for a February production start.
WWDD is being shepherded by Viceland co-president Spike Jonze, an Oscar-winning filmmaker, who oversees the network’s programming slate. Viceland, TMWRK and Matador are the producers.
“When James was in the office a few weeks ago, he told me the story lines he had sketched out, they were, of course, funny; one even got me emotional which made it that much more funny. This idea has gotten inside James which makes me really excited to see what he makes and happy to have it on our channel,” Jonze said.
Viceland co-president Eddy Moretti indicated that the network, which launched with a slate of unscripted series, will be doing more scripted fare in the future. “I’m excited to have this show on the channel. It’s hilarious. It’s weird. James’ interpretation of Diplo is like a modern cipher into which we can read the whole of human existence…or not,” he said. “Having built the first incarnation of Viceland around the solid bedrock of our non-fiction shows, I’m really looking forward to experimenting with scripted shows in the future. It’s fun.”
What Would Diplo Do? was packaged for TV by Paradigm & TMWRK. Dawson’s Creek alum Van der Beek, who recently co-starred on the CBS drama CSI: Cyber, is repped by Paradigm. Diplo & Kusatsu are repped by TMWRK and Paradigm. Dermer is repped by 3 Arts & UTA.