NEW YORK – MTV has been without a show that has defined pop culture since the demise of “Total Request Live” and is betting on a 25-year-old British model who dates a rock star to help fill that void.
“The Alexa Chung Show” will be a mix of celebrity talk, music and online interaction with viewers. The stakes are high; it’s the most important of nine new series the slumping network has in the works. The midday series begins June 15.
MTV’s viewership for the first three months of 2009 is down 18 percent from the year before. The docu-soap “The Hills” is still popular, and MTV is generating modest heat with the competition “America’s Best Dance Crew,” but it has lacked the daily stop-off point for stars that “TRL” provided before its slow demise and cancellation last November.
At its height, during the ’N Sync and Britney Spears years, “TRL” set the tone for the music business and drew huge crowds to MTV’s Times Square studio.
Chung, who has been on TV shows since she was 18 and now dates Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner, is a fresh face able to relate to both stars and the audience at home, network executives said.
“We just all really fell for her,” said David Sirulnick, MTV’s executive vice president for news and production.
The idea is to introduce Chung’s show for young viewers home for the summer and, if it works out well, move later to an after-school time slot.
Facebook is working with MTV as a partner in the series. MTV wants to use Facebook and Twitter to reach viewers in a way that “TRL” – which asked viewers to vote on their favorite videos – could barely touch upon.
“The show will air one hour a day,” Sirulnick said. “but for the other 23 hours, we want viewers to be engaged with Alexa and what is on the show.”
Sirulnick said MTV has been searching for the last few years for someone to build a show around.
MTV is going against the grain in that many young viewers are seeking a version of comfort TV, given the popularity of reruns of “George Lopez” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” said Brian Graden, MTV’s entertainment president.
Among MTV’s other new shows will be “The Buried Life,” with four men trying to cross out items on a young person’s version of a bucket list; “Gone Too Far,” an intervention series for addicts; and “Disaster Date,” a hidden camera show about people set up on awful blind dates by their friends.