A Lifetime of Drama

Jan 25, 2009  •  Post A Comment

JoAnn Alfano is starting to put her stamp on Lifetime.
Ms. Alfano, who in September joined the top-rated women’s network as executive VP for entertainment, earlier this month put the original series “Drop Dead Diva” into production.
She said the show—about a shallow fashion model who dies in an accident and whose soul is placed in the body of a brilliant, plus-sized attorney—epitomizes the type of programming she wants to put on Lifetime.
“It deals with a lot of contemporary issues and a lot of issues that are important to our audience, and I just love the fact that we have a plus-sized lead,” Ms. Alfano said.
Lifetime, which finished 2008 as the seventh-ranked ad-supported cable network in total primetime viewers, is trying to become more contemporary and follow up on the original programming success of its signature hit, “Army Wives.”
“Diva” was one of three pilots ordered by Ms. Alfano’s predecessor, Susanne Daniels. Ms. Daniels was a consultant while her replacement was being sought, and now she’s in the process of doing a development deal with Ms. Alfano.
“We’re actually working on a deal to work on a project together that I’ll be able to say something about by the upfront,” Ms. Alfano said.
Ms. Alfano is hoping to have a big pile of projects to present when the upfront comes along. She said she’s in the process of buying a number of drama scripts.
She is looking for more series like “Diva,” an hourlong show with a sense of humor, and has her eye out for programming with a lighter, escapist attitude.
“With what everyone’s going through in this country, and what we know our audience is going through with the economic downturn, we also want to put on some shows that are more fun,” she said.
Lifetime plans to pair “Diva” with its big hit drama “Army Wives” on Sunday nights starting in June.
“I think ‘Diva’ is the type of show that can really complement ‘Army Wives’ and expand our brand,” she said. “We think it’s a really smart, contemporary show, so I’m very excited about it.”
Ms. Alfano said she’s looking for a third original show for that night.
Adding Laughs
Lifetime is hoping to use its Sunday strength to build up its Monday night comedy schedule, which now features the off-net shows “Reba” and “How I Met Your Mother,” the original sitcom “Rita Rocks” and the unscripted series “DietTribe.”
Lifetime is airing the back end of “Rita Rocks’” original 20-episode order. A decision about moving forward with season two will be made after the new episodes are done airing, Ms. Alfano said.
“We are in development on a number of comedies, which we’re hoping could be companion pieces to either ‘Rita Rocks’ or ‘How I Met Your Mother’ when it joins us as a strip,” she added.
One of Lifetime’s biggest programming initiatives for the year, the acquisition of “Project Runway,” the fashion show that became a hit on Bravo, has been stalled. Bravo parent NBC Universal sued “Runway” creator the Weinstein Co. claiming it had been promised a right of first refusal, and that had been breached.
The deal with Weinstein also called for a number of spinoffs and other projects that would air on Lifetime, but those have been shelved indefinitely as well.
Ms. Alfano declined to discuss the Weinstein situation or whether she’s taking the Weinstein shows into account when making her development plans.
“We’re still going through the legal process, so there’s nothing I can speak to,” she said.

One Comment

  1. Reba and How I Met Your Mother back to back? Bad scheduling. Both are great series for Lifetime, just not paired together. Break them up into separate hours, or separate nights.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)