Small Cable Networks Get Original

May 9, 2011  |  

(New York Times) — Stacy Littlejohn worked her way up in network television like so many other writers and producers — she was a writers’ assistant on a Fox show, a joke writer on a CW show, a writer-producer on a half-hour ABC show.  Now, for the first time, she is in charge of a one-hour drama, but it is not for any network she envisioned earlier in her career. It is for VH1, the older-skewing version of MTV.  Niche cable channels like VH1 that have depended solely on unscripted programs or repeats of others’ scripted programs are now trotting out their own comedies and dramas. Their aim is diversification. When Ms. Littlejohn’s drama, “Single Ladies,” has its premiere late this month, “it’ll distinguish VH1 amid their steady diet of reality shows,” she said.  Top-tier cable channels like USA and TBS have been creating dramas and sitcoms for more than a decade, but now relative small fry are doing the same. The shows are a way to stay competitive.  “I think the bar has been raised in scripted,” said Jennifer Caserta, the general manager of IFC, the Independent Film Channel, which may be better known now for the sitcoms “Portlandia” and “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.”

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