Thursday, January 27, 2005

The WB's 'The Starlet' reality acting competition to premiere March 8

The WB has announced that The Starlet, a new Top Model-like reality series in which ten young aspiring actresses will compete to win a prize package that includes representation and a one-year talent deal with The WB, will premiere Tuesday, March 8 at 9PM ET/ET.

Similar to the network's scheduling of the just-concluded High School Reunion 3, The Starlet will air in the place of repeat broadcasts of The WB's One Tree Hill drama.

Evoking images of last summer's lowly rated Next Action Star NBC series, The WB states that The Starlet will put its aspiring actresses through an "intense Hollywood boot camp" featuring acting classes, live performances, screen tests and brutally honest critiques by three-person judging panel. Headed by Academy Award-winning actress Faye Dunaway (how the mighty have fallen), the panel will also include film actress Vivica A. Fox and famed casting director Joseph Middleton.

Like Action Star, Starlet will feature representation and an acting role as part of the prize package awarded to its winner -- in this case a one-year management contract with 3 Arts Entertainment and both an overall The WB talent deal and One Tree Hill guest starring role. Similar to NBC's scheduling of the made-for-TV feature film starring Action Star's winners, the One Tree Hill guest appearance will occur in the Hill episode airing the week following Starlet's April 12 finale.

Living together in a home once owned by Marilyn Monroe, the contestants will participate in screen tests filmed at renowned Hollywood locations including Los Angeles' old Orpheum Theater, Griffith Park's Bronson Caves, and the Sunset Strip's Comedy Store.

In addition to working with their acting coaches, the young women will also receive help from other guest stars already familiar to The WB viewers, including Jaime Pressly (Jack & Jill) and David Gallagher (7th Heaven).

The aspiring actresses will also get exposed to the perks of stardom, with each episode also featuring the women competing to win special rewards that include attending the film premiere of Ocean's 12 with Days of Our Lives hunk Matt CedeƱo, a photo session with sought-after photographer Simon Gluckman, a power dinner with a Hollywood director, and a makeover with top stylists.

Katie Wagner, daughter of actor Robert Wagner, will serve as The Starlet's host.

First announced in June 2004 under the working title of Wannabes, The Starlet was originally presented as a Jamie Kennedy production, however reality producer Mike Fleiss also joined the production in the interim, resulting in both Kennedy and Fleiss now having executive producer credits.

The one-time producer of Fox's Who Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionaire? disaster who first rose to prominence as a result of the ratings success of his ABC The Bachelor series, Fleiss has produced numerous other reality series in recent years -- with mixed results.

Cashing in on his initial Bachelor success, Fleiss quickly signed deals to create two additional reality series for ABC -- Are You Hot? and The Will. While Are You Hot? made it to the airwaves in Spring 2003, the televised meat market (complete with laser pointers) is near universally considered to have represented the bottoming out of the currently resurgent network, with even ABC's chairman later acknowledging the series was "in bad taste." Unfortunately for Fleiss, The Will also didn't fare any better. ABC gave up on the series after leaving it in development for over a year, and although Fleiss managed to somehow convince CBS to pick up the project, they clearly didn't think much of it. The Will finally premiered more than two years after it was first announced -- but in the original programming wasteland known as Saturday nights, where CBS still was unhappy with its performance and promptly canceled the series following a single 90-minute premiere broadcast.

Fleiss also produced a ten-episode The Two-Timer reality comedy series that ABC had scheduled for broadcast in Summer 2004, however the network suddenly pulled the show from its summer schedule despite promoting the series during its May 2004 Bachelor finale. While ABC executives cited a desire to not rush the series' post-production work as the reason for canceling the show's June 23 debut only two weeks before its broadcast, the network also failed to follow through with its statement that Two-Timer would air later that summer -- nor has the series aired since. Fleiss also sold ABC a Joe Millionaire-like series called Rich Guy, Poor Guy in early 2003, but like Two-Timer, despite casting call notices aired during The Bachelor and a nationwide casting tour conducted in conjunction with The Bachelor, the series has never seen the light of day.

Fleiss has had better luck working with The WB, where despite producing a couple of flops (The WB's Superstar USA, Big Man On Campus), his High School Reunion series has performed well enough to have aired three editions.

However Fleiss' biggest non-Bachelor success has arguably come at cable's TBS network, where he executive produced the network's reality-comedy adaptation of Sherwood Schwartz's classic Gilligan's Island sitcom. Despite mixed reviews, The Real Gilligan's Island series delivered great ratings for the network and will return for a second edition later this year.

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