Hollywood not interested in Levi Johnston show
Skeptics cool to reality pitch from 'Jon Gosselin with abs'Top network reality executives haven't seen Levi Johnston's proposed reality pilot about running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. But some already are wary of the concept.
"I'm just incredibly uninterested," said one network's executive in charge of unscripted programming. "We've seen him naked. We've heard him bash the Palins. What more is there that we need to know? He's a cute kid but not the most interesting person to watch."
The producer of Johnston's project -- tentatively titled "Loving Levi: The Road to the Mayor's Office" -- disagrees. Scott Stone said he's received calls from several networks that want to hear more about the concept since news of the idea broke Monday.
"We have a lot of interest," Stone said. "People will say what they will about Levi. He's very comfortable in his own skin. His statement that's he's 'half-redneck and half-Hollywood' is really who he is. It will be great to let him be that without being encumbered by anybody else's expectations."
Just because a famous face draws headlines, viewers often assume they can easily score a reality show. When Kim Kardashian or Antonio Sabato Jr. lands a program, it's not a leap to wonder: Why not Bristol Palin's ex?
Well, the leads in a celebrity-reality project still must have a certain degree of star quality, even if they were never actually a star.
Johnston, one cable network insider said snarkily, is like "Jon Gosselin with abs."
"I don't think he's a reality TV star," another executive said. "He just doesn't pop; he's not an interesting character. He doesn't have a lot to say, no matter what his name is."
Part of Stone's goal for shooting a pilot presentation in Los Angeles and Alaska before taking the show to networks is to counter such concerns and demonstrate that Johnston is able to keep viewers engaged.
"Most of what people have seen so far is through the filter of the news and the filter of Kathy Griffin," Stone said, referring to Johnston's appearance on Bravo's "My Life on the D-List." "We want them to see him through the filter of Levi."
A few executives pointed out they've already rejected pitches from Johnston, though that apparently predates Stone's involvement. One pitch had Johnston raising his son Tripp as a single father. Another had Johnston and Bristol raising Tripp together.
"When Johnston was aggressively shopping a series about raising his child with Bristol, there may have been something there -- dramatic and relatable authenticity," said a third executive. "But in this case, I'd probably give him my vote for mayor before I'd give him his own show."
Insiders said cable networks are the most likely pitch target, with MTV, Oxygen, Bravo, A&E, VH1, E! and TLC topping the first-blush list.
TLC picking up the show is unlikely, however, because Sarah Palin's upcoming Alaska travelogue is on the same channel and "there's not a chance in hell" of the network risking alienating Palin.
As one industry insider put it, "They already picked their Palin."
Another aspect that turned off some executives is that Johnston admitted that producers brainstormed the idea of the mayoral run. Although producer-fueled setups get greenlighted all the time by networks, that backstory usually isn't made public.
"It's such a made-for-TV fake situation," one executive said. "It needs to be something he is really doing."
Stone said that while producers might have hatched the concept, it was Johnston genuinely embracing the idea that makes it viable.
"We've been talking to Levi for a while about what he's going to do with his life," Stone said. "Whatever the show is about has to be what his life is about. We may have given him the idea, but he came back (and really wanted to do it). You can't run for mayor without him taking it seriously."