*In the midst of declining viewership among its core audience of 12- to 34-year-olds, MTV hopes to stop the bleeding by adding 16 new reality shows as part of its biggest programming overhaul ever, reports Variety.
While MTV pioneered reality series with 1992's "The Real World," that genre has become ubiquitous, so the network is offering a slate that – for the first time – avoids the backbiting and bickering of most nonfiction fare and embraces stories of personal achievement.
Under this new direction, fourth-quarter launch plans were scraped for a number of projects, including "50 Cent: The Money and the Power" -- which typified the kind of ethos MTV is trying to move away from.
"Our new shows will feature themes of affirmation and accomplishment," says Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks music channels and president of Logo. "Our shows are going to focus less on loud and silly hooks and more on young people proving themselves. These are themes that are consistent with the Obama generation."
Among the 16 new unscripted series to debut over the next 4½ months are shows from such high-profile producers as Sean "Diddy" Combs ("Starmaker"), Matt Stone & Trey Parker, Donald Trump and Nick Lachey. And, according to Variety, they represent a major thematic shift for the channel -- more toward the meta-scripted reality of MTV's "The Hills," one of the cabler's few success stories these days.
Last week, MTV unveiled eight of the series, which will aim visually for either "the cinematic feel of 'The Hills' " (according to Graden) or aesthetics that are novel to reality television. "We needed a new visual language," he says.
For example, the "College Life" producers gave U. of Wisconsin freshman camcorders, then turned them loose to shoot their own lives. Other upcoming launches include an untitled series focused on students at Cincinnati's School for Creative & Performing Arts that's produced by Lachey. The Trump-produced "Girls of Hedsor Hall" will follow a dozen hard-partying young women as they're whisked off to an English finishing school. The series will debut in January.