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 have greenlighted spinoffs to successful current shows that follow the follies and foibles of the monied class.
MTV plans My Super Sweet 16 Presents: Exiled!, an eight-episode documentary series that will ship the mini-divas from its My Super Sweet 16 series to indigenous tribes in far-off lands like Africa and Antarctica for the chance—their parents hope—of gaining a broader world view. Bravo has 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! comes out of MTV’s News and Docs division, and is being co-produced with Left/Right TV. The show, which premieres this spring, will follow the eight teens whose excessive birthday bashes were chronicled in the original series, and transplant them to households of indigenous tribes to experience a decidedly primitive lifestyle.
Having spun three-year-old Sweet 16 into six seasons with a solid average of 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 and DVD, and was looking to grow the franchise beyond the seventh season. Exiled!, say MTV programming executives, supports a trend of philanthropy in young people.
“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,’” says Dave Sirulnick, executive VP, multiplatform, production, news and music for MTV.
Although the series description evokes Fox’s/E!’s slapstick rich fish-out-of-water series The Simple Life, Sirulnick says Exiled! will be more earnest. The network even enlisted the United Nations to help find the indigenous families.
Real Housewives of Manhattan, premiering March 4, 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 Orange County’s third season proved a ratings winner. The show has thus far 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 (Super Nanny), follows 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 privileged-class programs, such as posh gym-set Workout and ritzy real estate-focused Flipping Out. The shows are intended to 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,” says Frances Berwick, Bravo’s executive VP of programming and production.
That being the case, as the series run, they may offer viewers another important lesson: Be careful what you wish for.