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Military TV: Showrunner Jeff Melvoin

By | Sunday April 17, 2011 @ 7:53pm PDT

Lifetime TV Network’s military family drama Army Wives is in its 5th season airing Sunday nights. But veteran TV producer Jeff Melvoin, whose lengthy credits include stints overseeing the series Alias, Picket Fences, Northern Exposure and Remington Steele, was underwhelmed when his agent asked him to consider doing triage duty during its debut back in 2007. Created by Katherine Fugate based on Tanya Biank’s book about the lives of five couples on a Charleston, S.C. military base, Army Wives enjoyed the largest series premiere in Lifetime’s 23-year history. But by the time Melvoin showed up for Episode 3, the series had been shut down. He ran the show for one season, then left for the second season so other showrunners took oversight. Then he returned for Season 3 and is still on board. This interview by Deadline TV contributor Diane Haithman took place in Melvoin’s office at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood:

DEADLINE: How badly did you not want to be the showrunner on Army Wives?
JEFF MELVOIN:  My agent said: ‘There’s a show on Lifetime called Army Wives that’s interested in you,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m not interested.’ All the connotations I had were negative, at least for me: Lifetime is a women’s network, and Army Wives sounded just too close to Desperate Housewives. I thought it would be an over-the-top type of show, which is not the kind of stuff that I’ve done. But my agent said: “Please, just look at the pilot.”  And I thought, this is really good. This was a show about real people, who were in a situation that I’d never seen before, written with intelligence and heart and humor, and in an area that I thought was very significant considering the all-volunteer army we have. And most Americans aren’t touched by these conflicts in Iraq and whatever comes next. In a curious way, not since Northern Exposure did I feel there was a chance to work with people in a drama that was unpredictable. I never looked at it as a soap opera. It’s a serial drama, it’s a family drama, but mostly I just saw it as a bunch of good stories about people I was interested in.

DEADLINE: You were brought in to fix the show. What was wrong with it?
MELVOIN: It’s something that a lot of people in my position would be hesitant to characterize, but I don’t really know what was going on behind the scenes. I know the situation that I inherited was that they only had one script ready and no other scripts in the hopper, and they didn’t think it was shootable, and they wanted it fixed. Read More »

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CABLE RATINGS: ‘Shameless’, ‘Army Wives’ Hit Series Highs

By | Monday March 28, 2011 @ 1:19pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

The Season 1 finale of Showtime’s drama Shameless drew 1.16 million viewers at 10 PM last night (1.51 million combined for the two airings). It was the the series’ largest audience to date, up 18% from its previous high, the series premiere (982,000), and marked Showtime’s biggest audience for a Season 1 finale telecast in 10 years, since Queer as Folk in 2001 (1.49 million). At 9 PM was the Season 4 finale of Californication (547,000, 1.06 million combined with the two replays). Both series have already been renewed.

Lifetime’s Army Wives also hit a series high in total viewers last night. The episode dealing with the death of Jeremy Sherwood (Richard Bryant) while in combat, drew 4.8 million viewers. The episode also posted season bests in adults 18-49 (2.2 million), women 25-54 (1.8 million) and women 18-49 (1.7 million).

Additionally, the Friday premiere of Disney Channel’s The Suite Life Movie drew 5.2 million viewers.

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‘Breakout Kings’ Has A Big Debut On A&E, ‘Army Wives’ Up In Return On Lifetime

Nellie Andreeva

Breakout Kings completed its Cinderella story with a record debut on A&E. The show, which was rescued by A&E after Fox passed on the pilot in May, drew the highest demo numbers for an A&E drama series, 1.5 million adults 18-49 and 1.6 million adults 25-54. That was up 25% in adults 18-49 and 14% in adults 25-54 from the previous network record holder, the July 2010 debut of the network’s The Glades. In 18-49, Breakout Kings outperformed recent cable scripted premieres, including that of USA’s Fairly Legal. In total viewers, Breakout Kings drew 2.8 million, short of The Glades‘ record of 3.6 million. “Breakout Kings is a smart, action-packed drama with great storytelling and authentic well-drawn characters,” said Bob DeBitetto, … Read More »

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Lifetime Picks Up Reality Series About Soldiers’ Family Reunions, TLC Has One Too

Nellie Andreeva

UPDATED: Lifetime is pairing its flagship drama Army Wives with a reality series featuring real-life army wives and kids as well as the solders forced to leave them behind when called to duty. The cable network has ordered 13 hourlong episodes from Coming Home, which chronicles five surprise and emotional reunions between U.S. soldiers and their families. Coming Home, hosted by former American Idol finalist Matt Rogers, will debut on March 6, following the fifth season premiere of Army Wives.

Coming Home should not be confused with TLC’s reality series Homecoming, announced in November, which has the same exact premise and country star Billy Ray Cyrus as host. TLC’s three-episode series has no premiere date yet and is expected to debut after the Lifetime’s Coming Home.

Both shows are tapping into the online phenomenon that videos of military family reunions have grown into. (A compilation posed below.) Coming Home is produced by RelativityREAL, with Tom Forman, the producer behind another reality tearjerker, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and Star Price executive producing. Read More »

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Lifetime Greenlights 2 New Scripted Series

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Lifetime’s new president and general manager Nancy Dubuc is putting her stamp on the female-centered cable network with her first scripted series orders. Lifetime has picked up to series two female-driven cop dramas, Against the Wall and Exit 19, for a launch later this year.

The orders, both for 13 episodes, can’t come soon enough for Lifetime, which desperately needs more original scripted programming. It is down to two scripted series – veteran Army Wives, which was renewed for a fifth season, and dramedy Drop Dead Diva, which has been picked up for a third season. The last scripted series premieres on the network were in 2009 (Diva and the short-lived comedy Sherri). Because of Lifetime’s acquisition by A&E Networks, Lifetime held off on development from mid-2009, when the deal was announced, until May 1, 2010 when History president and general manager Nancy Dubuc took over as Lifetime’s new president and general manager. She dived into development, reading piles of scripts identified by Lifetime’s development team led by JoAnn Alfano. “Over the last several months, we have been working tirelessly on a new development slate of scripted dramas, nonfiction series and original movies at Lifetime,” Dubuc said stressing that “continuing our legacy of great scripted dramas is critical” to the network’s success. She cited the newly picked-up Against the Wall and Exit 19 as examples of the “high-quality auspices … Read More »

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Lifetime Renews ‘Army Wives’ And ‘Diva’

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Lifetime has renewed its flagship series, Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva. Army Wives has been picked up for a fifth season, while Drop Dead Diva has been renewed for a third season. Both series have received 13-episode orders for a 2011 premiere. “Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva have lead Lifetime’s charge in scripted programming and are key components to our success,” said Nancy Dubuc, president and GM of Lifetime and History, adding that series’ renewal “allows us to launch our next generation of scripted series.” Under Dubuc, who took over Lifetime in the spring, the cable network has ordered 3 pilots, Against the Wall, Exit 13 and an untitled cop drama from Drop Dead Diva creator Josh Berman. The network will certainly use Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva as launching pads for any of the 3 that are picked up to series.

While it has slipped from the blockbuster ratings of its first couple of seasons, Army Wives still remains Lifetime’s highest-rated series ever. Its most recent fourth season averaged 3.2 million viewers, with its finale  (3.9 million) hitting season highs in total viewers and all key demographics. Season 4 also included a planted spinoff episode, but the network recently passed on it. Army Wives is produced by ABC Studios, with Mark Gordon, Deborah Spera, Jeff Melvoin, Marshall Persinger and Harry Bring executive producing. Its cast … Read More »

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CABLE NOTES: ‘Memphis Beat’ Looks Good For Renewal, ‘Army Wives’ Spinoff A No-Go, ‘Facing Kate’ Order Trimmed

Nellie Andreeva

- TNT’s freshman Memphis Beat looks promising for a second-season renewal, though there is no official pickup yet. The network is expected to make the decision within the next few days. Despite being overshadowed by the blockbuster launch of fellow freshman TNT drama Rizzoli & Isles, which received an early renewal, the off-beat Memphis Beat created by Liz Garcia and Joshua Harto and starring Jason Lee has developed a fan base, attracting an average of 4.5 million viewers for its 10-episode first-season run.
- Over at Lifetime, the network has passed on the Army Wives spinoff, whose pilot aired as an episode of the series this season. The spinoff, starring Brigid Brannagh and Gabrielle Union as Atlanta detectives, got a lot of attention recently following Deadline’s story about Wives executive producer Mark Gordon’s use of racial slur during the backdoor pilot’s table read. Meanwhile, renewal talks for the mothership series between Lifetime and producer ABC Studios are ongoing.
- And USA has cut the order for upcoming series Facing Kate from 12 to 10 episodes because of scheduling reasons. The series, originally slated for a Q4 debut, will now launch in Q1 2011.

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RATINGS RAT RACE: Highs For ‘The Glades’, ‘The Kardashians’ & ‘Army Wives’

By | Monday August 23, 2010 @ 11:32am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

A&E’s freshman drama The Glades hit series high in adults 18-49 (1.3 million) last night. The total viewership for the episode was 3.3 million.

Meanwhile, Keeping Up with the Kardashians opened its fifth season on E! with its highest-rated and most watched season premiere ever.  The season debut drew 4.7 million viewers, up 14% from last year. This was E!’s second most watched and highest-rated telecast ever behind last season’s Kardashians finale.

At Lifetime, the season 4 finale of Army Wives (3.9 million) hit season highs in total viewers and all key demographics.

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