Upfronts: VH1 Hits Reset

New York — VH1’s personality remake
had a launch party last week highlighting
“real” celebrities and music over the
tawdrier celebreality and dating shows
it had come to be known for.

Jessica Simpson set up a clip of her
new show The Price of Beauty, correctly
calling it “a tear-jerker.” Unemployed
football star Terrell Owens introduced a
scene from The T.O. Show, his returning
reality series, in which he takes pal Kita
Williams on a helicopter ride over Manhattan.
Even Ray J, who hosted one of
those tawdry dating shows on VH1, was
in a different guise, promoting Brandy
& Ray J
: A Family Business, about the
brother-and-sister R&B singers and
their parents.

The network (which took a 27% dip
in viewers in the 18-to-49 demographic
in the first quarter) is producing a record
44 new original shows for 2010. It’s
citing new research into young adults
(aged 25 to 34). In general manager Tom
Calderone’s words: “They told us that
they want to connect even more with
our characters, our artists and our celebrities
— but in a more genuine way.”

Music — partly via revived series
VH1 Storytellers
and Behind the Music
— will be 40% of the schedule, officials
said. Rock band Train performed at the
West Chelsea upfront: The highlight, in
a nod to VH1 Classic, was Aerosmith’s
“Dream On,” featuring American Idol
performer Fantasia Barrino, whose
Fantasia for Real
series is returning.

New series will be on such topics as
extreme materialism (You’re Cut Off ,
coming June 14), weight loss (Money
, summer) and wedding planning
(My Big Friggin Wedding, a working
title). New shows are also due from
Eva Longoria-Parker, about her restaurant,
Beso, and the wannabe stars
working there; and therapist Dr. Drew,
reuniting estranged family members.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.