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The programming shuffle at Viacom continues.
In a surprising move, Tracy Oliver’s buzzy First Wives Club reboot is moving from Paramount Network to Viacom sibling BET. The half-hour scripted dramedy — based on the 1996 movie that starred Diane Keaton, Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn — was originally developed by Keith Cox for TV Land but moved to broader-skewing Paramount Network when the executive’s purview expanded to both networks. The TV Land pilot (written by Rebecca Addelman and starring Alyson Hannigan, Megan Hilty and Vanessa Lachey) was passed over during Paramount Network’s rebranding from Spike and wound up being picked up to series after Girls Trip co-writer Oliver was brought in to rework the script.
“We are thrilled that Tracy Oliver and Paramount Television’s First Wives Club will be coming to BET Networks,” BET Networks president Scott Mills said Tuesday in a statement. “We have been big fans of Tracy, the project and its incredible cast all along. The concept she has for the series fits perfectly with our programming strategy of character-driven content anchored in the black experience, and it aligns seamlessly with our core audience. We are currently working closely with Paramount Television on Boomerang and are excited to continue working with them on this project.”
The news comes as a surprise given the bigger budget for the buzzy reboot, which stars Jill Scott, Michelle Buteau and Ryan Michelle Bathe. Sources say Cox had been extremely high on the retooled First Wives Club, which was poised to help bring in a new demographic to the former male-focused Spike TV. The decision to move the series to BET follows the October bombshell that longtime Viacom exec and Paramount Network topper Kevin Kay was being pushed out, with Comedy Central president Kent Alterman adding the broader-skewing general entertainment network to his purview in the latest exec restructuring at the media conglomerate. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s latest plan is to narrow the company’s focus from five brand groups to four: Comedy Central/Paramount Network/TV Land in one; MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo in the second; BET Networks as the third; and Nickelodeon as the fourth.
Paramount Network has had a challenging first year on the scripted front. TV Land imports American Woman and Nobodies were canceled, and Heathers was burned off after Viacom couldn’t find a new U.S. home for the anthology. Yellowstone, the first series developed specifically for the new network, was renewed and joins a 2019 scripted lineup that now includes TV Land import Younger and new Darren Star drama Emily in Paris. Kay’s original plan was to have eight scripted series airing on the network in 2019.
For BET, meanwhile, First Wives Club becomes a buzzy addition to a rapidly growing roster of scripted originals that also includes its Boomerang reboot, comedy Peachtree Place, American Soul and In Contempt. Mills, who was brought in last December to take over for longtime exec Debra Lee, previously told The Hollywood Reporter that he had hoped to bring First Wives Club over to BET amid the scripted reshuffling. “Paramount has First Wives Club, written by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip). It’s going to be an all African-American cast. That would be the one that we would be most excited to get that would really fit with our brand filter,” he said in an April interview about the cabler’s scripted push.
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