Silverman Goes Cable With 'Mob Wives'

TV programming executives agree that if a producer can't compellingly describe the conceit of a show in two sentences or less, there's trouble ahead. A hit is still harder to find than Susan Boyle, but a swift "Show Summary for Dummies" gives it a much better shot.

At the very least, it brings focus, not just helping programmers with green-light decisions but marketers down the line. The voiceover in promos is a lot easier to write and deliver.

Ben Silverman has found those two sentences. Two words, actually: "mob wives."

His pitch couldn't have been much different from: An up-close look at those married to the mob, now finding their way as their husbands wear a different kind of pinstripe. It zeroes in on how much they know about their husbands' nefariousness, and what kind of cash has been left behind, buried 15 feet beneath their sisters' trash cans.

No pilot needed, we want it, VH1 said. Maybe in a moment of loopiness, "Silverman, you are a hit maker." Well ... it is the Mafia.



The series is coming in 2011 from Silverman's Electus studio, in partnership with The Weinstein Co.

How could this fail? Voyeuristic interest in the Mafia may be just short of the royal family. And it's a potent combo: the high-brow "Sopranos" and high-concept "Real Housewives" franchise on Bravo.

Silverman, who never got his legs as programming chief at NBC, has always been good at knowing what works and finding a new twist. "Mob Wives" might swiftly reestablish him as a reliable go-to guy, for cable networks at least. (He's also got help from former MTV programming executive Tony DiSanto.)

Not referring to mobbed-up wives, Nada Stirratt, chief revenue officer at MySpace, told Mediaweek: Silverman is a "trend spotter" and waterfall of ideation, in "his DNA."

She's working with him in developing Web video. "Mob Wives" will be a much easier ride than succeeding in that stuck-in-neutral genre, where Silverman has loads of projects.

Viewers love the online stuff, but for the most part, only one-offs have worked, bringing those forward-to-friends that drive the genre. But how many people have come across a scripted -- or reality -- series of two-minute Webisodes and been inspired enough to come back for 13 straight weeks?

There has been no shortage of effort. And now, there may be more with the explosion of smartphones, which should only increase interest in short-form video. Silverman has a chance to, if not invent a genre, show it has a path to success. Problem is, content may not be the issue; those "two sentences" won't be nearly enough.

Driving traffic and creating appointment viewing will be the heart of the matter.

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