Tyra Banks, the former supermodel turned actress, television producer, and talk show host, has scored once again. This week ABC announced that Banks and actor-producer Ashton Kutcher will produce a reality show for the network. The unscripted and yet-to-be-named series will reportedly have a beauty pageant theme. Banks and Kutcher will produce the show through Warner Horizon, Banks’s Bankable Productions, and Kutcher’s Katalyst production banner, which he runs with Jason Goldberg and Karey Burke. ABC has reportedly ordered eight episodes; financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A combination of the Banks and Kutcher producing prowess could prove formidable.
Banks, who is ranked No. 3 on BLACK ENTERPRISE’s “Top Moneymakers in Hollywood” list, produces The CW’s top-rated show America’s Next Top Model, which is now in its tenth season. She also hosts The Tyra Banks Show which, according to Entertainment Weekly, had 4.3 million female viewers per week in the November 2007 sweeps. Banks also recently inked a multimillion-dollar production deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Though only 34, Banks has already earned comparisons to media moguls Oprah and Martha Stewart. Kutcher, for his part, is perhaps best known for his hit MTV reality show Punk’d and for executive producing The CW’s Beauty and the Geek, which is now in its fifth season.
The continuing ascent of Banks in the TV world comes on the heels of the end of the Hollywood writers strike. The 100-day walkout, which left many scripted shows silent and ended the run of others, including The CW’s Girlfriends and NBC’s Las Vegas, has further opened the door for reality shows. During the strike, executives reveled in the success of unscripted—nonunion agreement bound—programming, such as NBC’s new hit American Gladiators, which exceeded the network’s expectations. Given that reality programming costs less than the $2 million to $3 million hourly price tag on producing scripted shows, the networks are keen to produce more unscripted shows, with network heads such as NBC’s Ben Silverman citing in a recent interview young viewers’ strong desire for such programming.
Reality TV audiences’ affinity for the thrill of competition has led to the popularity of shows such as Dancing With the Stars and Project Runway and has pushed American Idol to the top of the ratings charts. Even Oprah has gotten in on the game. Her new reality series Oprah’s Big Give, featuring interior designer Nate Berkus and nonprofit head Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of Chris), among others, premiered Sunday, March 2.
Black audiences to date have responded well to reality TV shows, demonstrated by the success in black households of programs such as VH1’s Flavor of Love 3 andThe Salt-N-Pepa Show and MTV’s Making The Band 4, all of which broke Nielsen’s top 10 for cable television ratings in black households for Feb. 11–18.
There is some evidence that TV audiences could have ripe appetites for a pageant competition reality series. Oxygen Media’s special Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance, a beauty contest for full-figured women hosted by comedienne Mo’Nique of The Parkers, debuted in summer 2005 with 3.8 million viewers,