Upfronts 2010: WE TV Preps Programming Refresh

Reworking existing hits, adding new genres tied to 'Simply Fascinating' tagline

WE TV unveiled a robust slate of original programming designed to jazz up the women's brand.

"We want to be positive but not overly earnest," says John Miller, the network's senior VP of original productions and development, who joined WE several months ago from The Weinstein Company.

Speaking at the network's 2010 upfront presentation to reporters on March 30, Miller branded the new WE "upbeat and sassy."

Returning programs, most notably WE's top-rated Bridezillas, will get a little polish and a new emphasis on resolution without sacrificing the conflict.

"We've fleshed out the characters," says Miller. "It's still wonderfully conflict laden. But not conflict laden where you feel like you want to take a bath after watching. You actually care about these characters."

New original series will eschew train-wreck reality in favor of advertiser-friendly skeins with some redemptive value.

Sunset Daze is a reality version of the Golden Girls, reruns of which air on WE, about a group of Arizona retirees who behave like they're sill in college (minus the keg stands). It will air Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. beginning April 28. (A cut-down of the series shown at the upfront presentation was set to "Stayin' Alive," which gives new meaning to the BeeGees' disco classic.)

Girl Meets Gown, about a busy Dallas bridal boutique, joins the network's wedding canon. It bows April 25 at 10 p.m.

In You're Wearing That?!? a stylist helps a mother and daughter resolve their respective wardrobe impasses. "It's a great family show that also happens to be a makeover show," says Miller.

Mother Knows Best?, which has Joan Rivers moving in with her daughter Melissa Rivers and Melissa's son and new live-in boyfriend, intends to cast Joan Rivers in a sympathetic light. WE has ordered eight episodes of the show, which is targeted to debut during fourth quarter 2010.

Downsized follows a blended family with two parents and seven kids living way beyond their means. When the recession hits, the patriarch's contracting business goes under and the family's homes go into foreclosure forcing a radical lifestyle recalibration. Downsized is targeted to bow during fourth quarter 2010.

Fix My Family is a cross between Supernanny and In Treatment with some Intervention-esque undertones. The reality skein revolves around psychologist Dr. Tara Fields, who moves in with troubled families for a week of hands-on therapy. Fix My Family is scheduled to premiere during first quarter 2011.

WE has ordered a second season of Raising Sextuplets to premiere June 30 at 10 p.m. This time there will be less emphasis on changing dirty diapers and more focus on the family dynamics as the Masche family relocate to Florida - far away from the support of their extended families.

The network has also acquired the eight-season library of Charmed. Back-to-back episodes will air weekdays at 5 p.m. beginning June 21.

"Women tune in to watch the high drama," said Kim Martin, president and GM of WE. "They want to see chaos. But they want resolution. They want to feel that it's time well spent."

Original series in development include a reality show revolving around the women in Wayne Newton's life and docusoaps about a Las Vegas florist, a Staten Island pastry shop and veterinarian Karen Halligan.

WE finished 2009 with its highest rated primetime in households and its target demographic of women 25-54. Additionally its bridal block posted strong numbers with the sixth season finale of Bridezillas now ranked as the most-watched program in the network's history.

WE is coming off a "very healthy" scatter market, according to executive VP of ad sales Scott Collins and is anticipating "a lot of demand" for its new "family friendly" programming. The network is also eyeing deals that would include product integration or other brand tie-ins to its lineup. A program like Downsized would lend itself well to product integration, said Collins. WE executives continue to push spin-off network Wedding Central. The channel, which launched last August, is currently available on Cablevision's iO digital cable tier and Mediacom. (WE parent Rainbow Media is a subsidiary of Cablevision.)

The empowering-without-preaching tone and a new tagline -- "Simply Fascinating" -- is meant to differentiate the network from competitors, most notably NBC Universal's Oxygen.

"It's not an in-your-face attitude like Oxygen," says Miller.