Upfronts ’16: MTV goes “back to brand”

The Viacom-owned network will commit to bringing more live music and music-inspired programming back to its airwaves, the company revealed at its Upfront presentation in New York this week. (Pictured: MTV Unplugged)
April 22, 2016

Viacom-owned MTV is the latest network to embrace the “back to brand” programming philosophy, and will commit to bringing more live music and music-inspired programming back to its airwaves, the company revealed at its Upfront presentation in New York this week.

After years of skewing away from music-focused programming with the likes of Real World, Teen Mom, Jersey Shore and The Hills, the network has greenlit its first weekly live music performance series in nearly 20 years.

The tentatively titled Wonderland, which is expected to premiere this fall, will be an LA-based series featuring live performances from three different musical and comedic acts. The hour-long series was co-developed with Comedy Central and is exec produced by Done & Dusted with MTV.

Additional music-inspired series to be greenlit by MTV include a revitalized version of MTV Unplugged (pictured), in which musicians will take to an intimate stage with acoustic instruments and their voices; an as-yet untitled music competition from executive producer Mark Burnett and MGM Television, in which budding hip-hop artists compete for a record label deal in the recording studio; and dance docuseries Going Off (working title; from Radical Media), in which one dancer will win a high stakes opportunity to book a professional gig at the end of each episode.

The network has also secured development deals with Scooter Braun Films to produce Studio 24, in which famous artists and mystery talents are paired to create a new song over a 24-hour period; and Year One, an archive-based music docuseries that will explore the breakthrough year in a musician’s career.

“We’re on a mission to reignite MTV with everything that makes it one of the world’s most iconic brands – its soul of music, its love of pop culture, and its unexpected, groundbreaking creative,” said Sean Atkins, president of MTV, in a statement. “What we share today is just the beginning, but it’s a strong first step in the journey and shows how aggressively we are moving to energize the extraordinary promise of this great brand.”

Meanwhile, traditional reality docuseries and game shows will also be front and center on the network’s forthcoming slate, with new programming that includes docuseries The Outsiders (w/t; MTV, Barcroft Media), focused on eight families on the fringes of society; entrepreneurial docuseries Shinesty (w/t; MTV, Critical Content), on the upstart millennial fashion brand; and serialized docuseries MTV’s The Investigation (w/t; MTV, Embassy Row), following Ryan Ferguson, who spent 10 years wrongly imprisoned, as he probes cases of the wrongfully convicted.

Tollbooth TV’s reality competition series Stranded with a Million Bucks will document contestants with drone technology as they endure life on a remote island with a suitcase filled with one million dollars, while the MTV- and Endemol Shine-made competition format The Almost Impossible Game Show will see contestants battling through physical challenges ranging from the absurd to the outlandish to win cash prizes. The game show is based on ITV2′s popular UK format by the same name.

An as-yet untitled documentary project from actor and host Zac Efron will explore the expanding role of food and the culinary arts in millennial culture. Produced by Comedy Dynamics and Ninjas Runnin’ Wild, the film will explore the artistry, storytelling and journeys of food, and the issues and experiences that accompany eating. Efron will serve as executive producer alongside Michael Simkin, Jason Barrett, Brian Volk-Weiss, Cisco Henson and Edwin Zane.

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