Justin Bieber, The Hard Times of RJ Berger
Has Bieber Fever struck again? Just when ratings for MTV's new scripted comedy The Hard Times of RJ Berger most needed a boost, Justin Bieber may have helped bring in a crowd.
To wit, MTV has renewed Hard Times for a second season, TVGuide.com has learned exclusively. The decision comes after a recent upswing in viewership that coincides with the 16-year-old pop superstar endorsing it as "funny stuff." Twelve new episodes will premiere sometime next year.
Here's how our friend with the famously flippable locks lent a hand: On July 19, Bieber tweeted "Just met the guys who created that new show on @MTV "The Hard Times of #RJBerger" — good dudes. Show's on tonight at 10pm. Funny stuff." That night, ratings shot up 9 percent from the week prior. The following episode gathered even more steam, jumping 14 percent from the episode before Bieber's tweet.
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All told, the show has grown 31 percent in the last four weeks among MTV's target 12-to-34-year-old audience. Hard Times centers on the high school trials of a nerdy teen who achieves some notoriety when his classmates discover he's, er, well-endowed.
The show's audience still doesn't approach that of pop culture powerhouse Jersey Shore; the second season premiere of Shore delivered a record-setting 5.3 million viewers, while the most recent episode of Hard Times drew 993,000. But MTV is intent on growing its stable of teen-oriented scripted shows, a new area of programming for the network.
"We are 100 percent committed to scripted programming, and our current reality hits like Teen Mom, If You Really Knew Me, and, of course, Jersey Shore, provide an incredibly solid foundation for us to launch scripted series and let them gain traction," MTV President of Programming Tony DiSanto told TVGuide.com. "That's key, because whereas reality tends to burn bright and fast, scripted series take time to grow. We have been so heavily branded as a reality network [that] it will take a beat for our viewers to embrace this new diverse slate on the channel. That's why we are so thrilled by the response to Hard Times."
Other scripted shows coming up include a promising, dark series takeoff of the film Teen Wolf and an adaptation of the risque British teen series Skins.
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David Katzenberg, who co-created and executive produces Hard Times with Seth Grahame-Smith, said he knew Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, and sent the singer some DVDs of the show to get his opinion. The supportive tweet came shortly after.
"The show gets a big teen male audience," Katzenberg said, adding that Bieber's tweet couldn't have come at a better time. "Hard Times is a word-of-mouth show and kids are not in school right now where they would be talking about it. That's a problem for us, but Bieber's fans are insanely loyal and I think it's rubbing off on our show."
Katzenberg personally helped to combat ratings erosion by getting his famous friends who enjoy the show — including girlfriend Nicky Hilton and her sister Paris — to use their social networking for good. Other celebrities who have tweeted their love include Holly Madison, Travis Barker (who appeared as himself in an episode), Ryan Seacrest, Rob Dyrdek, and Lil Jon.
A new episode of MTV's Hard Times airs Monday at 10/9c.