Expanding into original fictional programming, E!
Entertainment Television unveiled its plans last week for a slate of four made-for-TV
movies and an anthology series for next year.
For its first original movie, E! has acquired the rights to
John Kane's novel, Best Actress, a comedy about an actress who would literally kill
to win an Oscar.
Best Actress, which will feature cameos of Hollywood
celebrities and power players, is now in preproduction, and it will start shooting this
fall. It is set to air shortly after the March 2000 Academy Awards
The rest of E!'s initial made-for-TV movies, all fictional,
will be thematically tied to and scheduled around major entertainment-industry events. For
example, one of the telepics may tie into the Cannes Film Festival next year, according to
E! executive vice president of programming and content Greg Brannan.
"This is a very natural progression for us,"
Brannan said, "and we'll be using events that viewers can relate to."
E! joins the list of cable networks producing original
movies, including VH1, TBS Superstation, Nickelodeon, Turner Network Television, Black
Entertainment Television, A&E Network and USA Network.
Earlier this year, E! made known its plan to get into
original movies when it hired Lynn Deegan, a veteran of Showtime and Home Box Office, as
head of development.
Deegan has been working on the made-for-TV films with
Brannan, who said the budgets for E!'s telepics will be between $2 million and $3 million
E! will ramp up its number of original movies in its second
year, 2001, possibly doing six to eight, Brannan added.
The network is sticking with fictional movies initially
because it is already successfully doing nonfiction programming with shows such as E!
True Hollywood Story,Brannan said.
E!'s new series, Hollywood Off-Ramp, will show
viewers an "other-worldly" Hollywood filled with bizarre circumstances,
according to the network. The fictional show will debut in the first quarter of next year,
featuring a host who will introduce viewers to the story, provide commentary and wrap up
the allegorical tale.
Brannan added, "It doesn't take much
exaggeration" to find "extreme and bizarre" scenarios in Hollywood that
would fit Hollywood Off-Ramp.
E! opted to do a fictional anthology series because it was
less limiting than other genres, such as sitcoms, Brannan said. With this anthology show,
he pointed out, E! plans to invite a different celebrity to direct each episode and offer
his or her unique take on the odd goings-on in Hollywood.
"This seemed to be the project with the most creative
upside for us," Brannan said.
E! plans to do 27 half-hour episodes of Hollywood
Off-Ramp for next year.
In a prepared statement, E! president Fran Shea said,
"These original fiction projects will take our programming in an exciting new
direction by allowing us to work with scripted material, while still staying true to our