AOL Adds James Franco, Zoe Saldana Series to Original Programming Slate

"Park Bench"

The New York tech firm announced at the NewFronts that all 16 of its shows will be measured using Nielsen Digital Program Ratings.

AOL has rounded out its slate of originals with a star-studded programming schedule that includes James Franco, Zoe Saldana and Kevin Nealon

The New York tech firm announced Tuesday at the Digital Content NewFronts that it has picked up 16 series for its AOL On streaming network. They include Making a Scene With James Franco, where the actor will invite friends to discuss their favorite classic Hollywood scenes, and My Hero from executive producer Zoe Saldana, where celebrities surprise their heroes with a tribute. Also set to debut is Kevin Nealon's Laugh Lessons, a series from executive producer Ellen DeGeneres that asks experienced comedians to teach comedy to children.

AOL previously announced that it had picked up Steve Buscemi series Park Bench for a season order. The series will follow Buscemi and his titular park bench as he meets with celebrity friends and everyday New Yorkers. 

"Everything we do here is mainly unscripted," AOL Video president Ran Harnevo tells THR. "It's content that we think is highly engaging and sharable."

AOL is also making a foray into long-form series. The firm previously announced Connected, a series based on the Israeli format that follows the lives of five New Yorkers.

Returning shows to the AOL lineup were announced earlier this month. They are #CandidlyNicole, Hardwired 2.0, The Future Stars Here and city.ballet

"The hunger from the talent side to come and do these projects is amazing this year," says Harveno. "It was very important for us to work with well-known talent, but we also wanted talent that could impact digital consumers on the get-go." 

AOL announced Tuesday that its entire slate of 16 original series will be measured using Nielsen Digital Program Ratings, a program that the ratings firm is currently testing in beta. The program will provide data on audience reach by age and gender that is comparable to television ratings. 


Here are AOL's new original series: 

Making a Scene With James Franco -- Born out of Franco's love for movies, each episode will feature James and one or more fellow artists discussing their favorite, classic scenes from Hollywood cinema. Then they will put their own stamp on history by recreating these scenes with an irreverent twist. Produced by Rabbit Bandini Productions and Trium Entertainment.

Kevin Nealon's Laugh Lessons -- Comedy is hard, but teaching comedy to children is hilariously difficult. Kevin Nealon is giving the challenge to some world-famous comedians in this new AOL series. As these young minds meet with comedy's best, get ready to learn some valuable comedy lessons, and to laugh! If you thought kids say the darndest things, wait until you hear what these comedians have to say. Executive producers Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Nealon, Jeff Kleeman, Ed Glavin, Andy Lassner and Mary Connelly for Telepictures.

Inspired -- Features A-list celebrities, visionaries and some of the biggest newsmakers of our generation recounting the stories behind their most life-changing moments of inspiration. Original photos and archival footage will bring these moments to life along with in-depth interviews. Executive produced by Rick Solomon and brought to you by NewForm, a new digital studio formed in partnership with Discovery Communications; Brian GrazerRon Howard; Craig JacobsonEd Wilson; Jim Wiatt; and Michael Rosenberg.

My Hero -- Executive produced by Zoe Saldana (who will star in one of the episodes), My Hero is an uplifting show featuring celebrities paying a surprise tribute to one person who changed their life by giving them an over-the-top, heartfelt surprise.  Produced by Ellen Rakieten Entertainment, a division of Relativity Media and Cinestar Productions. 

Win/Win -- The biggest names in business join a famous athlete for a day of honest conversation, legitimate fun and surprising insights.  Win/Win will provide unprecedented access into the minds of the world's most-celebrated entrepreneurs and athletes in a compelling, fly-on-the-wall style that will offer fans a fascinating view of what life is really like at the summit of these two increasingly intertwined worlds. With a mix of candid discussions and storytelling expertise, Win/Win will be the ultimate window on the personalities who define today's sports and business landscapes. Executive Producers are Mike Tollin and Jon Weinbach for Mandalay Sports Media.

That's Racist -- Jews and Money. Asian Drivers. Polish IQ. CPT… that's racist! But where do these stereotypes come from? Actor and comedian Mike Epps explores the backstories of this humor, and how history and fact often distorts into a snide -- but sometimes funny -- shorthand.  Produced by Andrew Fried for Boardwalk Pictures.

So Much More -- Punk rock singer Tom Gabel of Against Me! made news in 2012 when she came out as a transgender woman -- but what was more remarkable was the overwhelming support the music community gave her as she made her transition to Laura Jane Grace. This is her story -- and the story of other members of the trans community whose experiences are woefully underrepresented and misunderstood in the media. Produced by AOL Studios. 

Follow Me -- The series  documents the lives of modern day digital creators that are redefining celebrity. Each episode features a different star, together allowing us unprecedented access into their life to share their story. We'll experience life when the vlogging, instagramming, and tweeting stops... If it ever does. Produced by Fullscreen, the first media company for the connected generation.

The Road to Disrupt -- A twelve episode documentary series following five startup companies competing in the 2013 San Francisco TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield as they fine-tune their products and eventually present in front of a panel of judges in hopes of winning $50,000 in funding. Produced by AOL Studios.

In Short -- Launched April 28 on AOL, this five episode series from Academy Award-winning producer Christine Vachon and Jiro Dreams of Sushi producer Kevin Iwashina features a talented group of actors, including Katie Holmes, as they step behind the camera to create their own short-form documentaries. Each episode is seen through the eyes of a different actor as they take a seat in the director's chair for an in-depth look at the cultural ideas, inspirations and influences most important to them. The series is produced by Killer Digital, the digital platform production company launched by award-winning producer, author and founder/partner of Killer Films Vachon and Preferred Content co-founder/Managing Partner Iwashina. 

Connected -- AOL's first long-form video series chronicles the lives of five seemingly disconnected New Yorkers as they explore the concept of family in New York City. As five parallel stories unfold and eventually come together in a cohesive storyline, viewers are reminded of the universal bond that family has on individuals and on society as a whole -- regardless of social status, income, gender, marital status or sexual orientation. Produced by Koda Communications in association with Warrior Poets. 

Park Bench -- Steve Buscemi and AOL have teamed up to take over the streets of New York in this new original series: a local's take on the special people, places and spirit of The Big Apple. Through unscripted moments and conversations with average New Yorkers -- as well as Steve's celebrity friends -- Buscemi takes viewers on a first-hand misadventure. Discussing everything from pop culture to current events, the show will convey Steve's relationship with New York and its array of one-of-a-kind characters, taking viewers beyond mere interviews and involving them in his daily life. Produced by Olive Productions and RadicalMedia.
Twitter: @NatJarv