VH1 Pilot Push Stretches Music Franchise

VH1 late last week unveiled some $3 million worth of
primetime-program development -- ranging from talk shows, comedies and animation to more
typical video-clip shows -- all in some way using the network's "Stories Behind the
Music" slogan as a jumping-off point.

With the network coming off its best ratings year,
executive vice president of programming and production Jeff Gaspin described his first-run
plans as its "most aggressive to date" and "designed to keep the momentum

Some of the easier-to-produce formats could be on the air
as early as August or September, but scripted series likely won't be ready until 2000.
Some pilots will run as specials.

While sister network MTV: Music Television caught flak for
adding series outside of the music realm, Gaspin emphasized that all of VH1's shows were
music-related. "We're not about lifestyle. Even the comedies -- and they're not
'sitcoms' done in a studio -- are about music."

Gaspin also added a second original movie to VH1's list,
which already contained Sweet Water, about a 1960s rock band. The new one is The
Rick Nelson
Story: The Original Teen Idol, about Nelson's life from age 16 to
24. Both movies are due to run in August.

Of the 18 pilots, two will be spinoffs: Behind the Music
: Road to Fame and Pop-Up Quiz. The latter is a trivia game show
inspired by Pop-Up Video.

Behind the Music features performers like John
Mellencamp and Alice Cooper, so the new series will showcase newer acts, like The
Cranberries and The Goo Goo Dolls.

VH1 is also trying animated and scripted series concepts
for the first time. The Whitest Manon Earth will mix animation with videos,
apparently like MTV's Beavis and Butt-head.

Two of the four scripted projects are comedies -- Planet
, in which The Rockers group battles extraterrestrials; and Party at the
, based on a fictional weekly music-industry party for the chic.

Pop Rocks is a "dramedy" pilot offering a
"behind-the-scenes" look at the music business, while Back in Black is an
anthology series with a feel similar to TheTwilight Zone.

Two projects are positioned as daily shows: The List,
a celebrity-panel talk show about developing lists of song favorites under various themes;
and Scan, in which radio personalities deliver their shows live, somewhat like
Howard Stern does for E! Entertainment Television.

One pilot specifically being developed for late-night is Every
, a talk show based on successful stage show Stella.

Four or five more pilots may yet be added for
consideration, Gaspin said.