8:25am PT by Lacey Rose
TLC Greenlights Tyler Perry Drama as First Scripted Series (Exclusive)
This story first appeared in the April 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
TLC is hoping Tyler Perry can do for it what his other series have done for corporate cousin OWN.
This summer, the Discovery-owned outlet will launch its first scripted series, an eight- part drama written, directed and executive produced by the Atlanta-based mogul. With the working title Too Close to Home, the series will center on a young woman who achieves unparalleled success on the Washington political circuit, only to see it slip away when her affair with a married senator makes headlines. She is forced back to her trailer-park beginnings, where her past and its players resurface.
Casting has not begun, but TLC president Nancy Daniels says her desire is "to have the cast reflect the country." Perry will be intimately involved in that part of the process, as he is in all other elements of his projects.
Daniels first approached Perry, impressed by his breadth and ability to tell soapy stories that would fit at a network better known for Gosselins, Duggars and the Long Island medium. That Perry has been a vital piece of OWN's turnaround — primetime viewership has increased about 30 percent in the past two years, thanks in large part to the mogul's four series — made the move all the more appealing. Like much of cable, TLC has seen its ratings slip by double-digit margins in the past year.
To be sure, Daniels got the blessing of OWN executives before moving forward with a project from the network's most successful (and prolific) contributor. "We've been in lockstep," she says, emphasizing how important it is for the company to maintain Perry's collection of series at OWN.
With the move, Silver Spring, Md.-based TLC joins a lengthy list of cable networks that, eager for higher CPMs and critical cachet, have dipped their toes into the scripted space. For Daniels, ordering Too Close to Home also was about finding new ways to cut through the clutter in an increasingly crowded landscape.
Still, she insists the decision wasn't made lightly — and though other scripted ideas have been bandied about at TLC, Daniels is cognizant both of her network's brand and the genre's considerably higher price tags. "It's why we're not running in with 10 new scripted series at once," she says. "This is an experiment for us, but when you go with somebody like Tyler it's a safer bet."