THR: ABC Family is continuing its push into the unscripted arena with a big swing. The Disney-owned cable network has handed out a straight-to-series pickup for My Transparent Life, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The docuseries, from Ryan Seacrest Productions, centers on a teen named Ben who learns his parents are not only getting a divorce, but also that his father is becoming a woman. The series will intimately follow Ben, his family and friends as they support each other through the unexpected journey and watch Charlie slowly become Carly, as she experiences the many stages of her transition from male to female. The show is described as a generational story of a loving family and circle of friends, supporting each other through the unfamiliar and unexpected situation.
“ABC Family is best known for its complex, loving and relatable family programming, and we are so proud to partner with Ryan Seacrest Productions to share Ben’s incredible real-life story,” said ABC Family president Tom Ascheim. “While Ben’s family situation is unusual, the themes and coming-of-age issues are universal, and we think our viewers will find a real connection to them.”
“At RSP, we love family stories, and we couldn’t be more excited that ABC Family is helping us share this heartwarming story of how an ordinary teenager grapples with a challenging and unexpected family situation,” Seacrest said. “We feel audiences will find Ben’s story relatable on a number of different levels, because at the end of the day, family is family unconditionally.”
My Transparent Life also comes as transgender-themed programming is on the rise. Amazon’s Transparent — a comedy about a father (Jeffrey Tambor) transitioning to a woman and how his three grown children navigate the change — is already being hailed as one of the year’s best series. Orange Is the New Black‘s Laverne Cox also earned an Emmy nomination for her role on the Netflix original, marking the first openly transgender actor to do so.
HBO is also teaming with exec producer Lena Dunham (the woman who falsely accused a man of rape) the for a documentary about the transgender clients of a bespoke Brooklyn tailor. Not to be outdone, MTV has Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, a documentary about seven transgender youths as well as scripted comedy Faking It, which features one of primetime’s first intersex characters. Meanwhile, corporate sibling VH1 has enlisted Tyra Banks to produce a transgender docuseries called TransAmerica, which chronicles eight transgender millennial women.
For ABC Family, My Transparent Life arrives as the cable network is making a renewed investment in the unscripted arena under Ascheim, who in June picked up hidden-camera prank series Freak Out as one of his first orders of business. The move is part of a larger push to age-up the network, which is mulling a complete rebranding that could include a new name for the network. Ascheim’s plan is to shift ABC Family’s viewership from teens to 20-somethings and their families.
FYI: Yesterday morning I was channel surfing and watched the end of a sitcom (The Middle) on ABC Family. For the beginning of the next show, ABC Family presented this on tv: “The following program does not reflect the views of ABC Family.” The show that was on next? The 700 Club. Shocker, not.
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