E! Plans Summer Celebrity Watch

May 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

E! has ordered a docu-soap reality series starring former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter as part of a summer programming plan that includes several celebrity-centric specials.

Though the Comcast-controlled network is still searching for a tentpole original series, E! is coming off a successful first quarter-up 26 percent in prime time among 18 to 49 compared with last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“We lost the highest-rated show on the network, yet we’re up year to year instead of down,” said CEO and President Ted Harbert, referring to the departure of “The Howard Stern Show.” “You’ll notice a consistency to our ratings due to our core programming-even when we don’t have ‘The Girls Next Door’ on, the ratings don’t fall.”

This summer, E! is banking on the upcoming reunion of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in “The Simple Life: Till Death Do Us Part” to lend the channel some buzz.

Mr. Harbert also ordered eight half-hour episodes of “The Carters,” in which tabloid fixture Nick, his younger pop star brother Aaron and their three sisters move in together for the first time in a decade. The series will start shooting this month. “I look at this as a family drama with so much potential,” Mr. Harbert said.

Two clip-show series are also on deck: “7 Deadly Hollywood Sins” and “Sexiest.” The former is a half-hour, seven-part series finding celebrity examples of each of the Seven Deadly Sins. The latter is a 13-episode series, each counting down the 25 sexiest stars in a category such as action heroes, rock stars and bad girls.

Mr. Harbert said “Deadly Hollywood Sins” won’t revive yesteryear’s celebrity complaints that E! was too critical of talent. “That’s the challenge-tell interesting stories but don’t slam Hollywood,” he said. “We tell the truth but take a more careful approach than in the past.”

The specials include the backdoor pilot “Last Bride Standing: To Have and To Hold,” a contest in which soon-to-be brides hold on to a celebrity designer wedding dress in a test of endurance to win the gown.

“This has got some amazing stuff in it,” Mr. Harbert said. “There was crying and screaming that went on through the night.”

Another is “Stranded With a Star: Who Would You Choose?” in which a celebrity panel tries to determine the most desirable match-ups among fellow celebrities. “It’s a cocktail party discussion turned into a television show,” Mr. Harbert said.

Other specials include “Rise of the Geeks,” “Forbes 100 Richest Celebrities (and 1 Who Didn’t Make It)” and “Uncovered: Hidden Lives of Miss USA.”

Though the lineup doesn’t have as many original series as previous E! slates, Mr. Harbert said, recent expenditures to bring Ryan Seacrest on board as E! News co-anchor and red carpet host and buying rights to the final “The Simple Life” season have only marginally affected development.

“One of my goals is not to have such a huge slate, but to have returning shows that work and dependable core shows like ‘Talk Soup’ and the countdown shows,” Mr. Harbert said.