TLC Courts Scandal, But Sticks To Script, With Tyler Perry Series – Upfronts

TLC is growing up and looking to rely less on Duggars, polygamists, and kiddie-beauty-pageant mothers with dubious taste in men. To that end, the network said today it’s moving back into the property space and dipping its toe into scripted programming under the careful watch of Tyler Perry. Perry already is producing series for TLC’s Discovery Communications cousin, OWN.

“At TLC, we want to give our viewers more of what they love, and more of what we do —  we tell stories of big, fascinating characters and we tell them without judgment,” says Nancy Daniels, President, TLC & Discovery Life. Though not always without cancellation, we’d add.

“We have long celebrated the differences that make us each unique, and this summer our new “I AM” marketing campaign will engage our viewers like never before. This year we’re also making a big move into the scripted space with Tyler Perry and bringing back our beloved property programming with big names like Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent.We’re beyond excited to introduce our audience to new content and refresh a genre that TLC dominated for years.”

In this morning’s news, TLC cited some of its biggest returning shows, including Sister Wives, My Big Fat Fabulous Life, The Little Couple and Long Island Medium, 90-Day Fiance and spinoff 90-Day Fiance: After the 90 Days and Say Yes to the Dress celebrating its 10th year on air.

TLC_logo__130912234353But the headline here it the network’s plan to launch, in the second half of this year, its first scripted drama: 8-episode Too Close To Home, produced by Tyler Perry Studios. It’s about a young woman who leaves her working-class upbringing to find success in the fast-paced D.C. political circuit, only to “find herself” at the center of a scandal when her “steamy affair” with a married senator makes national headlines. This “forces” her, TLC says, to “return…to her trailer park beginnings” where “her past, and everyone in it, resurfaces.”

Which sounds like some of the juicier bits of the Duggar saga that forced TLC to pull the plug on a hit reality series — without the real-life-and-therefore-so-icky-advertisers-are-bailing part.

The Duggars, you’ll recall, were stars of the network’s very popular 19 Kids And Counting franchise. Last spring, TLC removed episodes of show from its airwaves, after a report that cast member/eldest son Josh Duggar had sexually molested teenage girls, including his sisters when they were all minors. Before “finding” himself at the center of the scandal, Josh Duggar had left his Arkansas upbringing to find success in the fast-paced D.C. political circuit, as executive director of  a lobbying PAC affiliated with conservative Family Research Council.

But, because it was real life and not a scripted series, advertisers bailed, petitions abounded, and the media feasted on the story which got even more tawdry with a report that patriarch Jim Bob Duggar initially might not have told that Arkansas state trooper the whole story of what Josh had been doing at home, followed by the revelation Josh Duggar was a member of Ashley Madison. Speaking of finding success in the fast-paced D.C. political circuit, Josh Duggar that year made The Washington Post’s 15 People the Internet Hated Most list.

And, that had all unspooled just seven months after TLC had managed to wipe the ick off its image caused by the sudden appearance of a convicted child molester into its Here Comes Honey Boo Boo off-camera storyline when Mama June allegedly once again took up with the former flame. While TLC is not the only network to discover that docu-reality TV stars tend to come unhinged in a big way, or even the first, today’s Tyler Perry announcement, however, may make TLC the most innovative at orchestrating a way back on track, using bits of the flotsam and jetsam.

TLC said this morning, cast and official premiere date for Perry-produced drama series will be announced later this year.

The network’s other big announcement: its move back into the property space with star design couple Berkus and Brent. Married To Design: Nate & Jeremiah, produced by Asylum Entertainment, marks the pair’s first venture into TV together and follows the couple as they juggle married life and raising baby daughter, Poppy, while helping distressed homeowners turn disaster to dream home.

TLC is expanding the property genre with two new projects:

Project Playhouse stars Tyson and Audy Leavitt, creators of elaborate playhouses from their family-run shop. It’s from High Noon Entertainment.

Hidden Money Makeover features design expert Jill Martin and handyman Gage Cass as they teach people around the country to turn clutter into cash which they then use to transform eyesore living spaces into aesthetically-pleasing parts of the home. It’s from Paper Route Productions.

Meanwhile, TLC hasn’t entirely abandoned the Relationships programming thread that has been the cornerstone of its programming. In 2016 the network will introduce:

OutDaughtered, about a couple who are parents to the only all-female set of quintuplets in the country. (The Boardwalk Entertainment Group)

Meet The Putmans, about a family of 25 who all live under one roof and share one bathroom. (Discovery Studios/Mystic Art Pictures)

Sweet 15: Quinceañera, celebrating the traditional rite of passage in a Latina’s life. (High Noon Entertainment)

Ink Ink Shop, about an all-female tattoo shop. (Big Fish Entertainment)

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