Jessica Shaw talks with Spelling and the producers behind her VH1 self-parody ''So NoTORIous''

Thought Tori Spelling would never land another TV series? Well, she’s back on VH1’s So NoTORIous (Sundays at 10 p.m.), as ”Tori Spelling.” That’s right, Tori plays ”Tori”: former star of Beverly Hills, 90210, daughter of Aaron, skewered subject of countless tabloid articles. And no, it’s not another reality series; the entire show is scripted. Confused? Spelling and producers Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler are here to help.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How on earth was this show pitched?
SPELLING When I went in and pitched the show to the networks I had a folder of all my bad tabloid clips, everything horrible or untrue that had ever been written about me. That was my pitch. A show about how people perceive me. Like, here’s my life. They would melt over it: ”Not only did this happen to you, but you’re sitting here laughing about it?” The ability to poke fun at myself made them want to do it.

And everyone got it?
SPELLING In the beginning I met with all the networks and one network didn’t like the idea [of having Aaron Spelling as voice on a loudspeaker]. They were like, ”You mean we’ll never see him?” They didn’t get it. Some people wanted to make it in front of a studio audience, four-camera sitcom with an ending where Kiki [Loni Anderson, who plays Tori’s mother] and Tori should be like, ”We love each other.” It’s like, No. That’s not their relationship.

So Notorious was initially a pilot for NBC. What happened?
ALBERGHINI Everything was leaning toward the fact that we would be picked up. We were on vacation. We were getting phone calls saying we had to be back in Los Angeles to hire a writing staff. I said, ”If you’re really saying cut our vacations short, we’ll do that.” Mike was like, ”Okay, but you have to pay to change our flights.” No sooner did we make our changes than we found out.
CHESSLER They don’t really tell you why. NBC is really GE. It’s like dealing with a military complex. It’s a gargantuan corporation. They give everybody a chance to weigh in. I do think sometimes people who manufacture jet engines watch the pilots.
ALBERGHINI They rely on testing and people don’t trust their instincts. It’s obviously done a really good job for them in the past eight or nine years.

How did you and VH1 find each other?
ALBERGHINI We were still on vacation and I didn’t want to come back. We’d gotten phone calls that UPN might be interested and The WB might be interested. But there were things they wanted to change, like The WB wanted multiple cameras, or UPN had issues with something else. I’m thinking, I don’t want to take notes from UPN. And then we got a phone call from VH1. They really loved the show and wanted to pick it up. We came back and sat down with executives, and they were like, ”We love the script. We’re not going to ask you to change a thing.”

Do the producers feel like they had to temper the ”Tori has no talent” or ”Tori has fake boobs” jokes?
ALBERGHINI She’s pretty genius that way. She’s such a survivor.
CHESSLER She’s had so much thrown her way. She laughs at herself and completely encourages laughing at her. When we first met her we were trying to behave. She would pitch lines like, ”What if you say something makes my eyes more buggy?”
ALBERGHINI If someone even said a tenth of those things [about me], I could never handle it. She’s used to it. There was this photo shoot for the billboard. It’s a beautiful shot and Tori is perfectly adorable. She’s feeling kind of glamorous and everyone is telling her, ”Oh, you look so great.” And this van full of college students drives by and neighs at her. She comes into the office the next day and says, ”I got neighed at.” She gets up there and someone is always there to cut her back down, which is what is endearing about her.
CHESSLER Tori really is still an underdog.