At its 2012 upfront presentation, E! marked its territory under the NBCUniversal umbrella by announcing an ambitious slate of original scripted programs, a first for the cable outlet best known for alternately pushing out reality garbage and making fun of itself for pushing out reality garbage. But the true sign that the network is now a corporate cousin to NBC appears to be the fact that none of those new shows worked out, its “pop of culture” brand still propped up one year later by whatever’s on the Kardahian Social Kalendar in a given week.
But just as AMC was once a place where “original scripted programming” meant Remember WENN and Pop-Up Video-style factoids superimposed over a basic-cable cut of The Godfather, E! keeps its sights set on finding a Mad Men or Walking Dead to call its own. And if that doesn’t happen, it’d settle for a Gossip Girl or an OC: Among the eight new series in development at the network is a Josh Schwartz-Stephanie Savage joint with the A.V. Club-commenter-pleasing title of Laurel Canyon. Rather than being Dawes’ big break into the primetime game, however, the series would concern a young woman returning to her childhood home in the Hollywood Hills following the death of her rock-star father—a premise with a fish-out-of-water (or fish-returning-to-water-it-used-to-know) thread that runs through many of the proposed series E! will present at its 2013 upfront tonight. There’s also a heavy dose of modern retellings (E!-tellings?), picking up on the broadcast networks’ recent interest in Great Expectations (Expectations, not to be confused with the canned, Reese Witherspoon-produced pilot with the same title and similar ties to CBS TV Studios), Hamlet (The Royals, seeing Fox’s attempt to filter The Bard through the Kennedys and raising it the British monarchy), and Mark Twain (The Stand-In, a distaff Prince And The Pauper set among Hollywood royalty). Kevin Spacey and Michael De Luca also hope follow up their initial stab at bringing a scripted show to E!—the Silicon Valley-set Upstarts—with Fortunate Son, a drama about a hard-partying-society-type-turned-criminal-informant. Unless Spacey and De Luca did an extensive rewrite on their first draft for Upstarts, in which case we suggest the tagline “He’s gone from IPOs to CI.” Thank you, E!, we will accept that check for $1 million.