E! is making a regal entry into scripted programming. The network has picked up one of its first two scripted pilots, The Royals starring Elizabeth Hurley, to series. The one-hour drama, about a fictional British Royal family set in modern London that is informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, hails from Lionsgate and a trio of One Tree Hill alums. OTH creator Mark Schwahn wrote and directed Royals, which he is executive producing with Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. Getting reality focused E! into the scripted space had been a priority for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment topper Bonnie Hammer. Sibling cable channel Bravo had been put on a similar path and just greenlighted its first scripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce. E!’s second pilot, musical drama Songbyrd, remains in contention. “The Royals will offer a fictional look behind the very public gilded façade of the palace gates to imagine the private, lush, fun, sexy world of the most-watched celebrity family on the planet,” said E! EVP Original Programming and development Jeff Olde said. Added the network’s scripted executive Kevin Plunkett who spearheads E!’s scripted efforts, “This is a big idea and Mark, Brian, Joe and the Lionsgate team delivered.”
She may have called striking Fashion Police scribes “schmuck writers” and “idiots”, and was slammed earlier this week by the WGA East, but a “stunned” Joan Rivers today says she is “supportive of the striking writers” (read the full statement below). The comedian also says she “just learned that E! and the WGA are having an election” on the over 6-month labor action and hopes the FP writers will soon be covered by a WGA contract. Here’s her statement:
I am stunned by the WGAE’s recent personal attacks and allegations that I breached the Settlement Agreement in connection with the WGAE Charges. I am supportive of the striking writers. I am hopeful that the writers will soon be covered by a WGA Contract as I have just learned that E! and the WGA are having an election in early December. As a long standing member of the WGAE, I am greatly confused and disturbed by Mr. Winship’s unprofessional and hurtful statements about my character – It is time for the focus to be on getting the writers a contract, not using me as a scapegoat.
According to Ms. Rivers’ counsel at the law firm of Loeb & Loeb, “Joan Rivers has fully complied with the terms of the Settlement Agreement. The statements that Mr. Winship attributes to Ms. Rivers do not violate the Settlement Agreement.”
The seemingly about-face remarks come a day after WGAE president Michael Winship called her out for “reprehensible” comments about the FP writers in an online interview last week. “We are exploring all options,” Winship added Thursday about possible repercussions.
As part of the deal struck today between Joan Rivers and the WGA East, the Fashion Police host said that she will not “render any writing services even though as a comedian and SAG-AFTRA host, I often write material for myself.” The WGA East had set an October 14 disciplinary hearing in New York to determine whether the E! host violated the union’s rules by writing and performing showrunner duties for the E! Network show during its current writers strike. Action could have resulted in Rivers becoming the first member of that guild to be tossed, and she had called the trial board hearing “a bunch of bullsh*t“. Former writers for show have been on strike since mid-April for over $1 million in back wages and overtime. Rivers and the network contend have that Rivers played no part in the situation that led to the dispute.
ABC has quickly filled the vacancy atop its unscripted department, closing a deal with former E! Entertainment president of entertainment programming Lisa Berger to replace John Saade, who exited on Friday. She will be holding the same title, EVP Alternative Series, Specials and Late-Night, overseeing development and current programming in those three areas.
At ABC, Berger will be charged with finding new reality hits; besides Shark Tank, the network’s only other successful unscripted franchises on the air — Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor – are more than a decade old. None of the network’s reality efforts over the past couple of years have stuck though there have been modest successes like Secret Millionaire and The Taste.
Jeff Olde, who joined E! as EVP Programming & Development in early July, has put together his team with several promotions within the department. Blythe Asher has been upped to SVP Talent Development & Casting. Damla Dogan will continue to serve as SVP Programming & Development, while Leela Pon has been promoted to VP Programming & Development. Asher, Dogan and Pon report to Olde. Other promotions include Missy Fox to Director, Programming & Development and Julie St. Aubin to Manager, Programming & Development, both reporting to Dogan. On the scripted side, Kevin Plunkett continues to serve as SVP Scripted Programming, reporting to Olde, and Kate Hoenigsberg has been promoted to Director, Scripted Programming, reporting to Plunkett.
The cast of Ellen Kardashian’s legal fight with her deceased husband’s children and ex-wife just had some marquee names added. Today a defamation and infliction of emotion distress complaint was filed against Ryan Seacrest Productions and Bunim-Murray Productions in LA Superior Court (read it here) The Kardashian clan of Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Robert Jr and mother Kris Jenner were also named, as was Jenner Communications. The Keeping Up With Kardashians producer and American Idol host was not personally named as a defendant. Very similar to a motion for counterclaim that Ellen Kardashian/Pearson filed in federal court in July, today’s 20-page complaint alleges that the widow of Robert Kardashian is the victim of a manufactured reality TV plotline from earlier this year by the clan and the production companies and a “manufactured lawsuit” in filed in federal court in April. Kardashian/Pearson withdrew her federal motion for counterclaim earlier this month with a window open to file it again if she wanted to. Seeking damages of $500,000, the Kardashian suit against their ex-stepmother claimed that Kardashian/Pearson, who married the family patriarch two months before he died of cancer in 2003, was engaged in a ”despicable and unlawful scheme” to sell family photos of the children and parts of their father’s diary to the tabloids.