TLC’s Fashion Police

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

When the BBC made TLC aware of its makeover series “What Not to Wear” about a year and a half ago, there was no doubt that the hit United Kingdom series had major potential in the United States.
After all, it’s not difficult to find people who could stand “life-affirming fashion intervention,” as Michael Klein, the executive producer for TLC, put it. Because TLC has a mandate to provide programming with elements of positive life transformation, the concept fit the network like a Donna Karan dress. But it came with some tailoring.
“The U.K. version is known for grabbing women’s breasts and sort of hoisting them,” said Abigail Harvey, executive producer of the show for BBC Productions USA. “We’re less tactile, I suppose.”
Not only is the show less bawdy and the “pretended bitchiness” toned down, but TLC stretched the original half-hour format to an hour, adding sections on hair and makeup.
When “What Not” hit the ratings jackpot right off the bat, TLC followed an initial 10-episode order with an order for 45 more.
In an average week the show cumes 4 million viewers in the 2+ demo. When new episodes debut Fridays at 10 p.m., they average 2.3 million households and garner the highest cable ratings in the women 18 to 34 category (1.18 rating), according to the network’s analysis of third-quarter Nielsen Media Research stats.
Mr. Klein said TLC has talked about spinoff programs, but hasn’t ordered any.
As for the future of the show: “We’re aware [that] the danger for a series that’s produced in such high volume is that it becomes too cookie-cutter,” Ms. Harvey said. They’re looking at modifying the makeovers for different types of women.
When a makeover recipient doesn’t buy the advice that’s been coaxed on her, it can make for a less predictable and more entertaining show, added Ms. Harvey. She recalled one woman with a penchant for see-through attire who took the show’s $5,000 shopping card and just bought what she would have anyway. “She thought it was really funny,” Ms. Harvey said.
Always, the makeover advice has to keep with the women’s personalities and lifestyles. In Mr. Klein’s opinion, that’s what separates the show from the makeover pack.
“We try to avoid the `higher the hair, the closer to God’ kind of thing,” he said.
What Not to Wear
Network: TLC
Premiere date: March 8, 2003
Studio/production company: BBC Production USA
Time slot: Friday, 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), with repeats Saturday, 2 p.m.
Main cast: Stacy London, Clinton Kelly, Nick Arrojo, Carmindy
Credits: BBC, creator; Abigail Harvey, executive producer for BBC Productions USA; Michael Klein, executive producer for TLC; Sara-Jane Cohen, supervising producer