VH1 rethinking reality dating shows and 'Megan' production company
By Christopher Rocchio, 08/27/2009
VH1 viewers may see less of the ridiculous reality dating shows the network has become known in the future.
Although the network claims it had already begun planning a new programming strategy before Megan Wants a Millionaire bachelor and I Love Money 3 contestant Ryan Jenkins was charged with murdering Jasmine Fiore last week, VH1 has confirmed it is re-evaluating its reliance on reality dating series and shows produced by 51 Minds Entertainment, The Los Angeles Timesreported Wednesday.
Both Megan Wants a Millionaire and I Love Money 3 were produced by 51 Minds, which has produced many of VH1's biggest hits since the network launched its initial "Celebreality" reality programming in 2004.
"This is not what I signed up for," VH1 president Tom Calderone told The Times, adding VH1 is "trying to get together" with 51 Minds to "fix this problem and never ever let this happen again."
Although it is an outside production company, 51 Minds -- which had reportedly been operating under an exclusive output deal with VH1 when worldwide reality titan Endemol acquired it in a deal valued at up to $200 million in April 2008 -- has been VH1's most prolific production partner over the last few years.
51 Minds has produced more than two dozen reality programs for VH1 since the network ordered a third edition of The WB's previously canceled The Surreal Life reality series from it in 2004 -- including Daisy of Love, For the Love of Ray J, New York Goes to Work, two Real Chance of Love editions, New York Goes to Hollywood, three Rock of Love editions, three Charm School editions, Gotti's Way, Celebrity Paranormal Project, two I Love New York editions, My Fair Brady, three Flavor of Love editions, Strange Love, and five The Surreal Life editions.
However 51 Minds is expected have a less prominent role in VH1's future programming despite having played a key role in turning the former second-tier music network into a Top 10 basic cable network, according to Calderone.
"We always want 51 Minds to be part of our arsenal and stable of creativity, but the only way VH1 will survive and be healthy is to have several different voices and production partners," he told The Times, which also noted that the network's five highest-rated shows of 2009 all have the word "love" somewhere in their titles.
Jenkins was charged with murder last Thursday in the death of Fiore -- a 28-year-old swimsuit model whose body was found August 15 stuffed in a suitcase in a Buena Park, CA trash can.
Police alleged Jenkins removed Fiore's teeth and fingers prior to disposing of her body, presumably to hinder efforts to identify her, however authorities used the serial numbers on her breast implants to identify the body. A preliminary coroner's report showed Fiore was strangled.
Following the discovery of Fiore's body, the 32-year-old Jenkins was able to elude authorities who searched for the Calgary, Alberta native along the U.S. and Canadian border. He was found dead on Sunday after allegedly hanging himself in the secluded Thunderbird Motel in Hope, British Columbia.
At the time, VH1 seemingly tried to deflect blame from itself and place it with 51 Minds despite the companies' close symbiotic relationship.
"Ryan Jenkins was a contestant on Megan Wants A Millionaire, an outside production, produced and owned by 51 Minds, that is licensed to VH1," said the network in a statement last Wednesday.
VH1 subsequently canceledMegan Wants a Millionaire after Jenkins was charged with murdering Fiore and reports that he also had a 2007 conviction for assaulting a former girlfriend in Canada emerged. After stating that it still had not decided the future of I Love Money 3, which had filmed in Mexico this summer but wasn't scheduled to premiere until January, VH1 also cancelled it a couple of days later.
After investigating the matter, 51 Minds stated Jenkins' Canadian criminal record had slipped through the cracks due to "an error by a Canadian court clerk."
"To conduct background checks on potential cast members for Megan Wants a Millionaire 51 Minds Entertainment hired a well-respected investigative firm called Collective Intelligence, which has done similar work for more than 90 production companies involving hundreds of TV shows on virtually every major network," the company said in a statement released to The Times last Friday.
"According to Collective Intelligence, Ryan Jenkins' criminal record in Canada escaped notice not because of any lapse on their part but as a result of an error by a Canadian court clerk."
Calderone referenced VH1's new The T.O. Show -- which follows NFL star Terrell Owens as he transitions from playing for the Dallas Cowboys to the Buffalo Bills -- as the direction he'd like to take the network in because it has a more "redemptive" feel.
"We don't want our viewers tuning in and feeling like it's the same network all the time, that is not something we want to be famous for," Calderone told The Times.
Despite wanting to distance itself from the reality dating genre, The Times reported that VH1 runs the risk of alienating its core viewers in the process -- as I love Money 2 averaged 2.3 million total viewers per episode while Real Chance of Love has been averaging 2.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.
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