The writing had been on the wall for a while, and Spike executives began quietly telling agents over the past couple of weeks that the network is getting out of the scripted business, at least for the time being. One of the network’s 2 scripted executives, Laurence Sullivan, has already departed to join Conan O’Brien’s production company Conaco. The last time Spike announced a scripted development slate was last October. Of the 7 projects on it, one, the Walt Becket-produced and Andy Tenant-directed Thunderballs, went to pilot but hasn’t been picked up to series. Spike also passed on its 2 pilots ordered last year, Back Nine and Playing With Guns. (Playing With Guns was later redeveloped by Comedy Central). Spike’s only remaining scripted executive, Dustin Davis, will continue to oversee existing development, including a script the network bought last month about an NYPD bomb squad, as well as Spike’s sole scripted series, Blue Mountain State. Spike’s recently picked up 4 new series, all in the reality genre, where the channel has had ratings success with such hits as Auction Hunters and Repo Games.
Spike TV has greenlighted four new reality series: Undercover Stings from Cops creator John Langley, about cops orchestrating sting operations; Big Easy Justice from Al Roker and Jennifer Lopez’s production companies, about a New Orleans bounty hunter; American Digger from the producers of Spike’s hit Auction Hunters, about a relic hunter digging up people’s properties for histotic artifacts; and World’s Worst Tenants from Zoo Prods., about a professional evictor. Additionally, Spike has ordered 20 more episodes of the SallyAnn Salsano-produced Repo Games. Sharon Levy, Spike’s EVP original series, said that the new shows are part of the network’s push to expand its core men 18-34 demo to the older men 34-49 demographic that was launched with such recent series as Auction Hunters, Bar Rescue and Repo Games. In primetime, Spike’s median age is currently 40, up from 38 last year. The median age for the network’s highest-rated unscripted original, Auction Hunters, is 41; for Bar Rescue it’s 42. “We have had success in our quest to broaden out our audience,” she said. “The new series continue that and hone our brand as a destination for dynamic characters that exist in high risk/high reward situations.” The goal is to have 52 weeks of originals on Spike every year, she added. Here are detailed descriptions of the new series, including the sizes of their orders:
The half-hour Repo Games, from Jersey Shore exec producer Sally Ann Salsano and her 495 Prods., has received a 20-episode order. It is a game-show described as Cops meets Jeopardy and follows a crew of real-life repo men, Josh Lewis and Tom Detone, who give debtors one last chance to keep their cars but only if they’re willing to play for it. The debtors get five questions and if they get three answers correct, the car will be paid off on the spot. If not, the car gets taken away. Production on the show starts in February.
The hourlong Bar Rescue, from 3 Ball Pros./Eyeworks, has received a 10-episode order. The project, which was picked up to pilot in May under the title On the Rocks, features top restaurant and bar consultant Jon Taffer giving failing establishments one last chance to succeed. The series begins shooting in April. JD Roth and Todd A. Nelson are exec producing.