CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) - After wrapping a solid 2002, E! Entertainment TV has stumbled out of the gate in 2003. In year-to-year comparisons, the cable channel is off by a surprising 10% in total viewers and 12% in adults 18-49 for the first quarter of 2003. Such a decline has pressed E! to increase its programming budget to over $70 million this year with over a dozen new series planned to launch in the next four months.
Mark Sonnenberg, executive VP of programming for the network, gave a rundown of the cabler's plans at its annual upfront presentation to the advertising community last week. The projects join the channel's regular dose of "E! News Daily," "Howard Stern," "Rank" and "Revealed." Also getting picked up for new seasons: "Nearly Famous: Vegas Showgirls," "The Michael Essany Show," "Star Dates" and "E! True Hollywood Story," which will cut back from 70 to 50 episodes this year. And while not officially picked up, a third season of "The Anna Nicole Show" is expected to be ordered shortly.
NEW ORIGINAL SERIES AND SPECIALS
LOVE CHAIN (premiered May 6 at 9:30/8:30c) - A group of gossip experts, psychics and fortune tellers analyze the love lives of some of Hollywood's top celebrities.
FROM SOAP TO STARDOM (premieres Wednesday, May 14 at 10:00/9:00c) - E! latest profile series features celebrities such as Demi Moore, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Meg Ryan and Ray Liotta, all of whom got their starts in daytime.
CELEBRITIES UNCENSORED (premieres June 2003) - The "quiet moments" of celebrities will be profiled in this new one-hour series which will look at the daily routine of various actors and musicians.
IT'S GOOD TO BE (premieres June 2003) - Described as an updated version of the 1980s syndicated series "Lifestyle and the Rich and Famous," this new half-hour reality series goes inside the homes of celebrities as well as follows them on shopping sprees.
UNTITLED REALITY MAGAZINE PROJECT (backdoor pilot, June 2003) - This new special (which could be turned into a series) chronicles the grind of Hollywood journalists as they uncover showbiz stories for their magazine (believed to be US Weekly).
YOUR 15 MINUTES ARE UP (premieres June 2003) - This new reality series will follow former reality TV stars and see how fame changed their lives for the better or worse.
101 SHOCKING MOMENTS (premieres July 2003) - The most talked about moments in entertainment history will be counted down in this new one-hour series. Among those making the list: Roseanne's national anthem rendition and the death of Princess Diana.
FACING FAME (premieres July 2003) - This makeover series will turn ordinary people into spitting images of their favorite stars with the helf of some of Hollywood's top special-effects makeup artists.
INFAMOUS (premieres July 2003) - E! will have actors recreate infamous blunders by celebrities in this new series. Among those mentioned are "Anne Heche's mental breakdown" and "Eddie Murphy's transvestite/traffic arrests."
STAR STRUCK (premieres July 2003) - Regular joes will have the opportunity to literally become their favorite stars thanks to famed hypnotist Ricky Kalmon.
CATFIGHTS (premieres TBA) - The series tracks how some of Hollywood's biggest divas have butted heads over the years.
HOLLYWOOD WIVES (premieres TBA) - The wives of Hollywood's leading players are profiled in this new series as they tell what it's like to be married to the "you know whos" of the world.
HOMETOWN PREMIERE (premieres TBA) - This reality series documents rising stars as they travel home to share their newfound success with friends and family.
The new projects were given a greenlight to produce anywhere from six to 13 episodes (exact orders for each were not revealed) with the potential for more later in the year.