WE tv is on a roll these days with reality television programming that is aimed at women, who are showing up in droves to watch popular series like "Bridezillas," "Joan and Melissa" and "My Fair Wedding." One of the newer entries to their schedule, "Braxton Family Values," returns for a second season tonight on the network with all new adventures of the five Braxton sisters - Toni, Tamar, Towanda, Traci and Trina - and mother Evelyn, who all happen to be strong, opinionated women who love each other fiercely but also bump heads on occasion. As the new episodes begin airing tonight, the family is dealing with the popularity that came their way from the first season of the show as well as the various personal and career dreams they're each pursuing.
To find out exactly what fans can expect in season two, our Jim Halterman rang up WE tv SVP of Original Production and Development John Miller, who previewed the drama coming between the sisters, the breakout of Tamar in the first year and whether the much-talked about Braxton Family Album is ever going to be a reality.
Jim Halterman: Can you tell me how the show came about in the first place? Were they pitching the show or did you go to them?
John Miller: We were looking to do something with a family like them, not them specifically and this was a good project that Magical Elves brought to me and I loved it. It had everything that I was looking for in a WE tv docu-drama. It has familial relationships that have high stakes, people who really care about each other and people who are really talented at something or just in general. I think that makes for really good television rather than people who we see throw things at each other or yell or compare plastic surgeries. These women are all really good at something and they're all fighting for attention and the spotlight and status inside the family and out. For me, that was really compelling.
JH: Toni is the one who we were the most familiar with from the start and things seemed to revolve on her a lot in the first season but Tamar is someone who really stood out in the first season, too.
JM: Tamar is fantastic and I would not want to do the show without any of them but I think without Tamar and without Toni it would be a different show. They are really two major characters who have a lot to say. Toni is a celebrity outside of reality. She's accomplished a lot in the world of music - I think she has six Grammys - so she's a music diva. She's brought a lot to the family and brought a lot to music and I think that the other sisters see this as a vehicle to show the world how talented they are.
JH: Were you surprised that Tamar really popped as a character in the first season or did you see that coming?
JM: I don't think we would have wanted to do the show if we didn't think these women would pop. I think Tamar popped a little more than I expected but that's why you do these things. You hope that someone like Tamar comes along and there are characters who support her, antagonize her and challenge her. She's really a driving force for story in the series.
JH: Did you change the approach of season one to season two or is it business as usual with the Braxtons?
JM: I think we changed the approach in that it is really difficult to try to approach a season two after a successful season one because being in a reality TV show changes the personalities, lives and stories of the people in the cast. I think we've really embraced that, which you don't always see in other reality series. We are dealing with storylines of how being on the show has changed their relationships with one another. There's resentment of Tamar being the standout character. They don't like to think she's a standout character but she is! As I said, I wouldn't want to do the show without any of them.
JH: From what I've seen in the season premiere, some of the ladies are branching out from Toni's world, especially since Toni is now living in Los Angeles and many of them are still in Atlanta. Can you talk about what we see develop?
JM: There's more variety and more interaction...they each seem to have very different relationships in twos as they do in threes as they do in fours and then the relationship is different when Mom is around. As sheer reality entertainment, it's a compelling show but I think for the observant viewer the subtlety for the sister dynamic when the players change - and they often do - is really compelling to watch. They just change before our eyes. There's a different relationship between Towanda and Toni than there is with Towanda and Trina. There's clearly a bond that exists between Towanda and Trina that doesn't exist between Towanda and Tamar. When it's just the two of them, they get along pretty well but when it's a group everyone teams up on Tamar. It's the kind of stuff that you experience in your social circle or familiar group that is relatable and intriguing and just seeing the subtle dynamics is really fun.
JH: Coming from a big family myself, I drew on a lot of those memories when watching the show, which I'm guessing is what people are finding in watching the show.
JM: Even if it's not sisters, just being a family. It's a good TV show. I'm really proud of it.
JH: Let's talk some specifics. The Braxton Family Album seems to be the through-line for the season. Is that the case?
JM: You've got all kinds of stuff going on there. The issue that we have not been able to get away from - and I'm not saying that I'm unhappy that we haven't been able to get away from it - is that Toni does not want to perform as an equal on the Braxton Family Album. She wants to come in for cameos and the argument is 'Well, wait a minute, that's not really a family album. That's you guesting on our album.' Tamar's got her own thing and recording. Trina is recording stuff as well. And Traci and Towanda just seem to go with whatever is going on. Towanda wants to be an actress and that's a storyline we follow and Traci can't decide what the hell she wants to do. It's really confusing for her.
They're all confused about [Traci] wants and they're confused about what Tamar wants but Tamar is actually really clear about what she wants - she wants to be a star. She wants to do her own album and she really recognizes that a lot of people are watching the show, they're getting press and they're in the news more than ever before and she wants to capitalize on that. Her sisters are resentful of her for that but she really just wants to move forward. Toni's health becomes a storyline and she's successfully battling some health issues. Her finances she has under control, which will be part of the storyline. Trina's relationship with [husband] Gabe really grows up. Towanda's with Andre blows up. Toni also gets back into dating and Tamar is constantly having this difficult relationship with her husband. Having your husband as your manager and also having your husband who used to manage your superstar sister but he doesn't anymore...there's a lot going on with this family.
JH: And their mother, Evelyn, is also dating this season, right?
JM: Yeah, she has a beau! She is a very important part of 'Braxton Family Values' because she's highly opinionated and she is tough. I wouldn't want to cross her but she's loving, she loves them and her relationship with her ex-husband comes into play this season. She's very vocal this season. I think she really found her comfort level on the camera or has forgotten about the camera.
JH: You see Tamar and it's not tough to think that she could have a show of her own. Is that something that you have thought about?
JM: Hopefully, we'll have some news on that front very soon.
"Braxton Family Values" airs every Thursday at 9:00/8:00c on WE tv.