MTV will launch a new reality show, I Used to Be Fat, which follows teens during the summer between their senior year in high school and their freshman year in college as they lose weight in preparation for a new chapter in their lives. The first of ten one-hour episodes of I Used to Be Fat premieres Dec. 29 on MTV's Ten Spot.
The series is part of an overall push at the network to present a more genuine slice of millenials' lives as opposed to the manufactured nature of shows like Paris Hilton's New BFF.
"One of the loudest things we heard from our audience was reality was feeling a lot less real to them," says Stephen Friedman, general manager of MTV. "The kind of reality where you really felt the producer's hand, they just weren't buying it."
I Used to Be Fat will feature one teen for each hour-long episode as they work with trainers, nutritionists and doctors to achieve their weight-loss goals. The show is from 3 Ball Productions, which also produces The Biggest Loser, E!'s What's Eating You and ABC's upcoming Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.
"That reboot of your life can happen over one summer," says JD Roth, 3 Ball CEO and executive producer on I Used to Be Fat. "The kids who really dedicated themselves and really wanted this made changes that are staggering. We had multiple kids lose 100 pounds."
The show, adds Friedman, is part of a trend at the network of observational unscripted programming--much like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant--that achieves a "much more authentic bent."
MTV is in the throes of a scripted push that also aims to mine coming-of-age rites of passage.
Skins, which is based on the R-rated British show about the lives of teenagers, was given a high-profile sneak peak after the Oct. 21 finale of Jersey Shore. All in all, there are eight new scripted series in various stages of development at MTV. The network has ordered a pilot of The Inbetweeners, another UK import.
Twelve episodes of Teen Wolf--inspired by the Michael J. Fox movie--will bow in 2011. A second season of Hard Times of RJ Berger, which premiered last summer, is also on the docket.
"[Hard Times] was a real message to our audience that we're not just doing reality," says Friedman. "That show grew 30% [in viewership] from the beginning to the end. And what we had to say to our staff, which is now seeing big numbers from Teen Mom and Jersey Shore is, you know, [Hard Times] actually did better than True Blood and Mad Men in their first seasons. And I think it's a helpful reminder that scripted takes time to grow. But it can also build and you can sustain it because some reality, as we know, burns bright and fast."
The network is also on track with its slate of quarterly original movies, some culled from signature reality franchises including Made and My Super Sweet 16.
Worst Prom Ever commences shooting next week for debut in May--prom season. Also on tap for 2011 is The Truth Below, about four college friends trapped in a snowbound car during a spring-break ski trip. Modern Family's Reid Ewing and 90210's Gillian Zinser co-star.
"There was a moment a couple years ago where we realized that we needed to overhaul everything because the millennials had arrived," says Friedman. "You can't grow old with the audience. When the audience ages up you need to let go of them and let go of those assumptions. So we really had to re-invent how we do programming."
Friedman continued, "It's what I love about MTV. It demands that you shed your skin and question everything. I think the team embraced it as this big challenge. It's been transformative internally. But it's been really heartening to watch the response of this very different generation."
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