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 »
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 »
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 »
- 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.