Siblings and professional tennis rivals Venus and Serena Williams are serving up a half-hour reality show for ABC Family.
The network has ordered six episodes of the as-yet-untitled project, which will follow the sisters on and off the court.
“They came in and we completely fell in love with them. They are perfect for ABC Family,” said Paul Lee, president of ABC Family. “They’ve spent the past decade pounding tennis courts and now they’re looking outside to figure out what they’re doing with the rest of their lives. We think it’s a coup to have them.”
Though the series will feature footage from their matches, the show will not focus exclusively on their play.
“ESPN does a fabulous job of covering their matches; we’re going to be looking at their lives,” Mr. Lee said.
Critics have lambasted reality shows such as “The Apprentice” and “America’s Next Top Model” for portraying blacks, particularly women, as overly aggressive villains. The Williams sisters have a role-model image and have recently written a book offering advice to pre-teens, an ABC Family demographic.
Since 1999 the Williams sisters have been two of the most dominant players on the women’s tennis circuit, and Serena Williams was ranked the top female player in the world in 2002. Both players often have been sidelined with injuries in recent years, however, leaving them time to pursue other ventures.
Fernando Hernandez (MTV’s `”Til Death Do Us Part”) and Robert Pura (MTV’s “Motel MTV”) are executive producing, for Repeat Offenders Productions. The William Morris Agency packaged the series.
ABC Family is still on a ratings climb, up 10 percent among total prime-time viewers for the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.
ABC Family’s most recent reality debut, “Las Vegas Garden of Love,” however, hasn’t fared as well. Though the series received positive reviews, it premiered last Monday to about 500,000 total viewers, which is below the network’s prime-time average of 1.1 million for the last quarter.