MTV Orders 11 Unscripted Series, Including Music Competition Show From Mark Burnett

Mark Burnett  - S 2015
Courtesy of Rubenstein Communications

MTV is looking to bring music back to the network.

The Viacom-owned cable channel, ahead of Thursday's upfront presentation to Madison Avenue ad buyers, announced 11 new unscripted series, confirmed the pickups of three scripted comedies and the development of nine new projects, including scripted projects from producers Drew Barrymore, John Legend and Pitbull.

Highlighting the unscripted fare is a noticeable push for music programming including an untitled music competition from Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor, Shark Tank) and MGM in which undiscovered hip-hop artists perform in the studio for music moguls as they look to make it big. The cabler is also reviving MTV Unplugged and has ordered Wonderland, a weekly live music performance series — its first in 20 years.

MTV also is betting big on the reality competition space and, in addition to the Burnett-produced music reality series, has picked up The Almost Impossible Game Show, based on the U.K. format from Endemol Shine; survival entry Stranded With a Million Bucks; and dance-off entry Going Off, featuring choreographer Tricia Miranda offering hopefuls a chance to step alongside the stars.

On the docuseries front, MTV is looking for its own version of Making a Murderer with The Investigation. Hosted by Ryan Ferguson, who was released from prison after being wrongly convicted of a murder he didn't commit, the Embassy Row program will look at three criminal cases in a serialized documentary about the wrongfully convicted. Joining that is The Outsiders, a closed-ended docuseries following eight families with polarizing beliefs — including white supremacists and devil worshipers. Rounding out the list is an untitled entry from Zac Efron in which the actor and foodie explores how food has moved to become the center of millennial culture.  

On the comedy front, the network confirmed series pickups for hourlong college vigilante dramedy Sweet/Vicious; Loosely Exactly Nicole, a half-hour scripted entry starring Girl Code's Nicole Byer; and scripted pot comedy Mary + Jane. Joining them is Acting Out, an unscripted series where up-and-coming comedians have their best stand-up routines acted out; and Shinesty, a comedic docuseries about the Colorado apparel company.

"We’re on a mission to reignite MTV with everything that makes it one of the world’s most iconic brands — its soul of music, its love of pop culture and its unexpected, groundbreaking creative,” said new MTV president Sean Atkins. “What we share today is just the beginning, but it’s a strong first step in the journey and shows how aggressively we are moving to energize the extraordinary promise of this great brand.”

On the development side, the cabler is prepping scripted dramas from Pitbull (305, about Miami) and Barrymore (Blooms, a coming-of-age story about twins) as well as half-hour comedies It's the Real from John Legend (featuring a Jewish hip-hop duo), Pick Me Up from Dave Becky (about a ne'er-do-well brother-and-sister duo) and an adaptation of best-seller 99 Days from Alloy Entertainment.

On the unscripted side, Burnett is prepping a half-hour comedic reality series called First World Problems; Studio 24, from Scooter Braun Films, in which a star and an unknown are tasked with writing a new song in 24 hours; a weekly movie-focused comedy/talk show produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson called Greatest Movie Show of All Time, This Week; and Year One, a music documentary series featuring archival footage that explores the breakthrough year in a superstar's career.

MTV's wide-ranging slate comes as the cable network has been part of a larger Viacom restructuring that has seen multiple executives come and go. The slate is the first under new network topper Atkins and seems to move away from tabloid staples like Teen Mom in favor of more music, intellectual and scripted fare.

The cabler's current scripted roster includes the likely final season of Awkward and comedy Faking It as well as dramas Teen Wolf, Scream and The Shannara Chronicles, the latter of which was renewed for a second season on Wednesday.

Here's a closer look at all the series orders and development projects:

New series

Acting Out

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 U.K. 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 L.A.: 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.

MTV Unplugged

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 multiplatform 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, Colo., 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 castmembers 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. 

Untitled Mark Burnett Project

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. Mark Burnett and MGM Television will executive produce.

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. 


MTV is launching a new weekly show that reimagines 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. MTV is producing with executive producer Done & Dusted.


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

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)
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 Stiklorious (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 and 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 Mason
Based on a format by: FTV Rights B.V.