'MVP' scores with place on SoapNet slate


SoapNet is expanding its original scripted offerings with a new 10-episode hockey-themed drama series.

"MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives" (working title), produced by Toronto-based Screen Door, revolves around the on- and off-the-ice drama surrounding the Canadian Mustangs hockey team and the women in their lives. It marks the channel's second original scripted series following the "General Hospital" spinoff "Night Shift," which broke network records during its run in the summer.

"This is the first time we are going to have a primetime soap with real primetime production values," said Brian Frons, president of daytime at Disney-ABC Television Group.

"MVP" is part of SoapNet's strategy to broaden the definition of "soap," Frons said. The network originally began airing day-and-date soaps mixed with classic primetime dramas like "Dallas" and "Dynasty." Over the past few years, it began to acquire more contemporary programs including "The O.C." and "One Tree Hill" and added unscripted programming before breaking into original scripteds with "Night Shift," which is still awaiting word on a second-season pickup.

"We're broadening our reach by investing more in original programming," Frons said, adding that "MVP" has "five to six times" the budget of "Night Shift."

The hourlong series will focus on the shocking scandals of hockey players — who are living the life of instant wealth, excess and tabloid celebrity — with their girlfriends and wives joining the ride. It stars Lucas Bryant, Dillon Casey, Mathew Bennett, Peter Miller, Kristin Booth, Anastasia Phillips, Deborah Odell, Natalie Krill and Olivia Waldriff. Mary Young Leckie and Heather Haldane are the executive producers.

Athletes' significant others have been the subject of a few other programs in recent years, including the British series "Footballers Wives," ABC's pilot "Football Wives" and the CW comedy "The Game." Frons said those characters — women attached to hot men and who live the wealthy lifestyle — have particular appeal to SoapNet's audience.

"When we talk to the viewers about what kind of women they really like on shows, we get two answers: One is the very strong, powerful woman who is either a mother or businesswoman who has made her mark in the world, and the other is the one who has this great, hot guy and lives an amazing life," he said. "This is very much a wish-fulfillment soap."

"MVP," which will air at 11 p.m. Thursdays beginning June 19, joins the recently announced series of countdown specials, "Relative Madness," premiering next month. Los Angeles-based Circus Road Films brokered the deal between Screen Door and SoapNet.