Third night, 7 new series on VH1 bill


VH1 has greenlighted a slate of seven new series — ranging from celebrity-driven shows starring Danny Bonaduce and rappers Salt-N-Pepa to reality competitions to improv comedy — as part of a new strategy to launch a third night of original programming later in the summer.

The move to launch originals on Thursdays — joining Sunday and Monday nights — is part of what VH1 is calling an "aggressive new programming initiative" that comes on the heels of five years of quarterly growth that it attributes to such recent original series as "Flavor of Love" and "I Love New York."

Among the slate of new series, all targeted to premiere in fourth-quarter 2007 or first-quarter 2008, are "The Salt-N-Pepa Show," a 10-episode series following the female rap group as they attempt to reunite, and the tentatively titled "Danny Bonaduce's Child Star," an eight-episode series in which Bonaduce, a former child star who also starred on VH1's "Breaking Bonaduce," puts kids and parents through challenges to find the next big child star.

The improvised comedy "Free Radio" stars improv comedian Lance Krall ("The Joe Schmo Show") as a dimwitted morning-show DJ who interviews celebrities. VH1 has ordered eight episodes.

Also on the slate are "America's Most Smartest Model," a 10-episode reality competition hosted by Ben Stein and fashion model Mary Alice Stephenson in which 14 models are put through challenges to win the title and a cash prize; "Old Skool With Terry and Gita," a five-episode series starring Terry Moore, 77, an actress and ex-wife of Howard Hughes, and Gita Hall, 72, one of the world's first supermodels, as they set out to discover "what's hip and happening today"; and the eight-episode photography reality competition "Click!"

VH1 also has ordered seven episodes of the documentary series "Lords of the Revolution," which profiles the "nonconformist heroes" of the 1960s and '70s.

Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks Music Group and president of MTV Networks' cable channel Logo, said the series fall in line with VH1's focus on music and pop culture programming.

"For the past two or three years, our mantra has been celebrating all things pop culture, the culture of celebrity that we live in and music as well," Graden said.

As for the new night of programming, Thursdays are a big night for advertisers, especially film studios looking to promote their upcoming product. Kicking off the new night July 26 will be the new scripted series "I Hate My 30s" and the new reality show "The Fab Life Presents: My Big Fat Fabulous Wedding."

Graden also will look to pair up new and returning series "where it makes thematic sense." For example, he said, "Salt-N-Pepa" might be paired up with the second season of "I Love New York," while "Smartest Model" and "Click!" could air side by side.

Graden added that VH1 has other scripted projects in development, hinting that an announcement might be coming soon.

"We don't see (scripted) as a majority of what we do, but we're definitely playing there," he said.

Year-to-date, VH1's primetime ratings in the adults 18-49 demo are up 25%. The network also ranks as the No. 4 basic cable channel in 18-49 on Monday nights and No. 5 on Sunday nights.

"I feel VH1 can easily be catapulted into top 10 status (across the board)," Graden said. "We have the content to do it."