MTV is doubling down on love.
The cable network has given a 20-episode order to a new summer relationship series featuring author/romance expert Tionna Smalls, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively. The half-hour series, which has a hidden-camera element, will run as a Monday to Thursday strip for five weeks.
Girl, Get Your Mind Right!, premiering at 6 p.m. May 20, focuses on the relationship expert, who has made it her mission to help young women get over the respective dating issues that may be holding them back from thriving in successful relationships. In each episode, Smalls will assess their particular problem and confront it head on, whether it's the men in their lives or their own personal hang-ups.
As part of the journey, she will give them a personalized makeover that addresses their looks, behavior and attitude. Before they go on their dates, Smalls offers them final pointers before going undercover and spying on them to see if her tips are being put into action.
For MTV's part, the decision to air Girl, Get Your Mind Right! in a strip format -- instead of weekly -- was to explore as "many variety of issues as we possibly can," Tony DiBari, senior vp series development at MTV, tells THR. "It'll allow us to take a look into the specifics of many more girls and each episode will wind up being more relatable."
Teaming with an outspoken, unfiltered personality like Smalls, seen on VH1's What Chilli Wants, is also a move to cater to the network's target 12-34 demographic. "Tough love, especially with a comedic tone, is something our audience is craving right now," DiBari says. "They're looking for guidance and boundaries from someone other than their parents. We felt the combination of the genre and the personality like Tionna, who is so unique, made a lot of sense for us."
Girl, Get Your Mind Right! is based off Smalls' book of the same name that published in 2011. "Everybody needs a coach in their life and that's what I am for these girls," Smalls tells THR. For instance, Smalls helps a young woman who recently lost a significant amount of weight (90 pounds) and was afraid to date because she didn't believe she was her new self. "That was crazy to me!" Smalls recalls.
Infusing the spy element into the DNA of the show was also a crucial point. "We thought the hidden-camera took the genre to the next level," DiBari explains. "We wanted to take it one step further and really put it all to the test."
Following the recent pickup of The Hookup, a dating series hosted by Guy Code's Andrew Schulz airing as an afternoon strip, MTV is making a concerted effort to get back into the relationship genre.
"For a long time dating shows were a real big part of our programming slate and we've kind of fallen away from that recently," DiBari says. "It remains something that's important to our viewers, and also because dating has changed so much recently that it feels like the right time to get back into that space."
Filming on the series took four months, with an episode averaging roughly three days to film; the series has since wrapped. Smalls still keeps in touch with the 20 girls she has helped along the way through Twitter, Instagram and e-mail.
"I really do care for these girls," she says, "and I've been doing this for years, helping and mentoring girls, so it's nothing new to me."
Girl, Get Your Mind Right! marks the latest series from former MTV execs Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley, executive producers through DiGa Vision, to land at the network following Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life. DiBari, Karen Frank, Mike Powers and Deb Savo are also EPs, with Teresa Sorkin and Bethany Parish producing.