Reality honchos Mark Burnett and Mike Fleiss brought scripted TV to its knees — and now they’re looking to help prop it back up. Survivor’s Burnett recently teamed up with veteran comedy producers Carsey-Werner-Mandabach (That ’70s Show) to develop and produce the WB pilot Are We There Yet? (starring Ally McBeal’s John Michael Higgins). ”It’s no different than what people like [Jerry] Bruckheimer have done,” says Burnett’s manager, Conrad Riggs, of the CSI exec producer. ”TV and film is storytelling — and Mark is an incredible storyteller.”
But some scripted-show execs view the move as more significant. ”It signals their awareness that there is a ceiling on reality TV,” says one veteran show runner. ”In the television world, legitimacy is in scripted shows.”
One established WGA writer thinks the transition from reality TV to scripted will be smooth for Fleiss and Burnett. ”They’ll be great at it because their material is already scripted,” he says. ”The thing they’re up against is that their stories are so hokey, they might not fly as well when they’re not real.”
The Bachelor’s Fleiss also believes his move into the scripted genre is a natural extension of what he’s been doing — albeit for different reasons. ”I’m just looking to work with good people on good projects like always,” says the producer. For now, that includes producing the upcoming theatrical remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and teaming with writer-director Amy Heckerling (Clueless) on a half-hour pilot for ABC. ”It has alternative qualities,” says Fleiss, ”but it’s really funny.” Maybe, but will anybody be making out in masks?