TV viewers long obsessed with how the other half lives are in for a real treat in the coming months. They’ll get a chance to see what happens when the rich get richer dilemmas to deal with, courtesy of new series on MTV and Bravo.
Both networks green-lit spinoffs to successful current shows that follow the follies and foibles of the moneyed class. Each series will expand the franchises further by showcasing bratty teens and wealthy women in not-so-simple lives.
MTV plans Exiled!, an eight-episode documentary series that will ship the mini-divas from its Super Sweet 16 series to indigenous tribes in far-off lands like Africa and Antarctica for the chance -- their parents hope -- of gaining an altered world view.
Bravo slated The Real Housewives of New York, a Gotham-set follow-up to its conspicuous-consumption-centric The Real Housewives of Orange County, currently a hit in season three.
Like its source series, Exiled!, which premieres this spring, comes out of MTV’s News and Docs division. It is being co-produced with Left/Right TV. The show will follow the wishes of parents of the eight teens whose excessive birthday bashes were chronicled in the original series and transplant them to households of indigenous tribes across the globe to eat, sleep and live the decidedly downscale lifestyle of teen-age girls there.
Having spun three-year-old Sweet 16 into six seasons with a solid average 1.7 million total viewers (1.3 million in the target 12-34 demo), MTV launched international editions of the show, as well as a scripted movie, DVD and online contest, and it was looking to grow the franchise beyond the seventh season it is currently shooting. Discovering whether the girls are plucky as well as lucky fits in with what MTV programming executives said points to a trend of young people pursuing more philanthropic, pay-it-forward behavior.
“Our audience in the past few years has really begun to look at how they fit into the world; it’s core to who young people are now,” said Dave Sirulnick, executive vice president of multiplatform, production, news and music for MTV. “Some of these girls had very little awareness of what was going on around them and were very self-centered. We thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity.’”
Although the series description evokes that of Fox’s/E! Entertainment Television’s slapstick rich-fish-out-of-water series The Simple Life, Sirulnick said Exiled! will be more earnest. Given that the network enlisted the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations to help find the indigenous families, you can expect to see no Chihuahuas named Tinkerbell.
Real Housewives of Manhattan was originally envisioned by Bravo as a show about Manhattan moms, but network executives retooled it to be part of the Real Housewives franchise when it became clear that Orange County’s third season was a ratings winner, having produced numbers higher than the previous two. Season three, which concludes later this month, has averaged 1 million viewers 18-49 and 1.3 million total viewers, up 11% and 14%, respectively, over the first eight weeks of season two.
The New York show, from Ricochet Television (Supernanny), mines this rich vein by following four Manhattan wives and one from Brooklyn in intersecting social circles. The women must balance stressful careers with desperate ploys to get toddlers into exclusive private schools, manage overly mature teens and maneuver socially around chi-chi charity functions and Hamptons homes.
The show fits in with Bravo’s other privilege-class programs, such as posh gym-set Workout and ritzy real estate-focused Flipping Out. The shows at once sate a target audience’s voyeuristic desire, while also delving into some universal work-life balance themes.
“It’s almost like social anthropology of the choices certain people make in how they live their lives,” Bravo executive VP of programming and production Frances Berwick said. “Some people come to the show because they love the fabulous lifestyles, the beautiful images of that, and some people relate to the characters and how the people are feeling. Ultimately, the characters really hook people in and they relate or feel they want a piece of their lives.”
That being the case, as the series both run, they may offer viewers another important lesson: Be careful what you wish for.