While the Real Housewives franchise will likely outlive Keith Richards and cockroaches, Bravo’s Tuesday morning upfront presentation placed a much greater emphasis on new programming.
Among the 17 new series green-lit for the 2013-14 campaign are Divorce Diva, about a mediator who tries to keep couples from going to court; Extreme Guide to Parenting, a chronicle of different child-rearing styles and the disasters unique to each one; and Below Deck, a reality series that takes place on board an extravagant yacht.
Recently installed NBCUniversal cable division head Bonnie Hammer is making her presence felt at the network. One exec said that the network’s “focus is less on franchises” than it has been in the past and that it would be trying to broaden its palate.
Bravo is also taking its first stab at scripted series, beginning production on its inaugural drama pilot. Rita stars Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn as an acerbic private school teacher and single mom. Josh Hamilton has been cast as the male lead opposite Gunn.
The network is developing a handful of other scripted projects, including The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, an adaptation of Vicki Iovine’s series of self-help books, and Heiresses, a drama based on an upcoming novel from Sara Sheperd (Pretty Little Liars).
While the influx of professional actors should class the joint up a bit, the oft-combative “Bravolebrities” will remain an integral part of the network’s DNA. (Although not every alum was invited to the breakfast— as Jeff Lewis, of the show Interior Therapy joked, “If anyone sees Jill Zarin in the building, we ask that you report her to security.”)
Among the familiar faces set to appear in spin-off series are The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss, who will star in a new show about her entrepreneurial endeavors titled The Kandi Factory, and Courtney Kerr of Most Eligible Dallas, who sets out to rope herself a Southern gentleman in Courtney Loves Dallas.
Bravo’s 18 renewals include Flipping Out, Tabatha Takes Over, Shahs of Sunset and programming evp Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live, among others.
Overall, the network’s slate increased programming hours by 15 percent.
Lastly, while there was zero mention of the Real Housewives franchise during the upfront event, all five legacy versions of the show were renewed. The forerunner, The Real Housewives of Orange County, returned Monday for its eighth season.
Bravo closed out the first quarter of 2013 ranked third among women 18-49, averaging 462,000 members of the target demo in prime time. Per SNL Kagan, the network last year took in $368.2 million in ad sales revenue, up 5 percent versus its 2011 haul.