Hollywood disdainful of Levi Johnston TV venture

Wed Aug 11, 2010 4:07am EDT

Levi Johnston poses at the 14th annual GQ magazine ''Men of the Year'' party in Los Angeles November 18, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Levi Johnston poses at the 14th annual GQ magazine ''Men of the Year'' party in Los Angeles November 18, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Top network reality executives haven't seen Levi Johnston's proposed reality pilot about running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. But some already are wary about the concept.

"I'm just incredibly uninterested," said one network's executive in charge of unscripted programing. "We've seen him naked. We've heard him bash the Palins. What more is there that we need to know? He's a cute kid but not the most interesting person to watch."

The producer of Johnston's project -- tentatively titled "Loving Levi: The Road to the Mayor's Office" -- disagrees. Scott Stone said he's received calls from several networks that want to hear more about the concept since news of the idea broke Monday.

"We have a lot of interest," Stone said. "People will say what they will about Levi. He's very comfortable in his own skin. His statement that's he's 'half-redneck and half-Hollywood' is really who he is. It will be great to let him be that without being encumbered by anybody else's expectations."

Just because a famous face draws headlines, viewers often assume they can easily score a reality show. When Kim Kardashian or Antonio Sabato Jr. lands a program, it's not a leap to wonder: Why not Bristol Palin's ex?

Well, the subject of a celebrity-reality project still must have a certain degree of star quality, even if they were never actually a star. Johnston, one cable network insider said snarkily, is like "Jon Gosselin with abs."

"I don't think he's a reality TV star," another executive said. "He just doesn't pop; he's not an interesting character. He doesn't have a lot to say, no matter what his name is."

Part of Stone's goal for shooting a pilot presentation in Los Angeles and Alaska before taking the show to networks is to counter such concerns and demonstrate that Johnston is able to keep viewers engaged.

"Most of what people have seen so far is through the filter of the news and the filter of Kathy Griffin," Stone said, referring to Johnston's appearance on Bravo's "My Life on the D-List." "We want them to see him through the filter of Levi."

A few executives pointed out they've already rejected pitches from Johnston, though that apparently predates Stone's involvement. One pitch had Johnston raising his son Tripp as a single father. Another had Johnston and Bristol raising Tripp together.

"When Johnston was aggressively shopping a series about raising his child with Bristol, there may have been something there -- dramatic and relatable authenticity," said a third executive. "But in this case, I'd probably give him my vote for mayor before I'd give him his own show."

Insiders said cable networks are the most likely pitch target, with MTV, Oxygen, Bravo, A&E, VH1, E! and TLC topping the first-blush list.

TLC picking up the show is unlikely, however, because Sarah Palin's upcoming Alaska travelogue is on the same channel and "there's not a chance in hell" of the network risking alienating Palin.

As one industry insider put it, "They already picked their Palin."

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