Tori Spelling's Real-Time Reality: How Lifetime Keeps New Show Current
"True Tori," which chronicles the marital problems behind the "90210" star's tabloid headlines, is churning out episodes less than three weeks after filming in an effort to build viewer interest.
This story first appeared in the May 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Lifetime is hoping to generate some ink (and ratings) of its own with the ripped-from-the-headlines True Tori. The docuseries, centering on Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott's attempt to mend their troubled marriage, is making covers of Us Weekly and other celebrity magazines in the wake of a cheating scandal and McDermott's stint in rehab. To keep things fresh, the network and producers at All3Media America shingle Studio Lambert are using an expedited production schedule to turn out episodes less than three weeks after filming.
It's a wildly unorthodox timetable for reality TV. Typical efforts such as OWN's recent Lindsay Lohan vehicle and E!'s Kardashian series get north of six months for careful edits, music cues and other tweaks. And though the U.K. has seen its share of reality shows come together on such short notice -- as few as 10 days' lead in True Tori's case -- CBS' Big Brother is the only stateside show to employ a similar rush to air.
"What we really loved about this show was the immediacy," says Lifetime senior vp and head of nonfiction development Eli Lehrer, who disputes allegations that the series is staged. "We went from zero to 60 in just four weeks, and we're used to months of buildup and marketing."
The play hasn't translated to huge ratings just yet. True Tori, which Spelling pitched to producers when McDermott was about to exit rehab, premiered to a solid 1.2 million viewers, but the second week saw increases in viewership among all of Lifetime's notable demographics (women and adults 18-to-49 and 25-to-54), and as the show repeats, execs are hoping that momentum will continue as awareness increases. An order past the original six episodes hinges on an improved performance and its stars still producing compelling content.
"Beyond the affair, there are other things in their marriage that they have to work for," says executive producer Greg Goldman, who optimistically is filming the pair's therapy sessions. "Some of the stuff that we shot yesterday is just as compelling as the stuff we got on day two."