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Lifetime premiered another of its made-for-TV movies this weekend. This time it was a flick focusing on diva singer Whitney Houston during her marriage to R&B star Bobby Brown. The Yaya DeCosta and Arlen Escapeta starrer took some criticism before it aired, but that may have only helped the ratings for Whitney. In fact, 4.5 million total viewers tuned in to watch the soapy Lifetime movie on Saturday night.
It helped that there were a few big names involved with Whitney. While Yaya DeCosta is hardly a household name at this point, Houston’s Waiting to Exhale co-star Angela Bassett actually directed the TV movie, which earned the flick some brownie points. This morning, Lifetime reported that the movie also earned 2.2 million total viewers in the 25-54 demographic. In fact, the telecast was so successful, it nabbed the biggest audience Lifetime has achieved since Flowers in the Attic aired a year ago.
Lifetime has done well putting together soapy original programs based on the lives of famous celebrities, including Aaliyah, Brittany Murphy and the upcoming Marilyn Monroe. Houston’s family was noticeably upset about the unauthorized biography, but that didn’t stop people from tuning in for Whitney. Nor did it stop them from sticking around for Bobby Brown: Remembering Whitney and Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances, which also aired on Lifetime that same night.
Whether or not Whitney ended up exceeding the expectations of its fans, there’s no doubt that Lifetime has been able to maintain its reputation as a viable ratings bringer through event programming like the Whitney Houston biopic. While some of these programs—e.g. Whitney—have clearly done better than others—e.g. The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story— the general idea behind these unauthorized stories is working for the network. Whether or not the families of the stars like it, the female-centric network will likely continue to tell these types of stories in the coming months.
In fact, Lifetime has a miniseries following the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and baseball player Joe DiMaggio in the works. Marilyn will follow the 9-month marriage between the athlete and actress and is expected to hit the schedule in 2015. I’m not sure the Marilyn Monroe story will be able to top Whitney in popularity, but Lifetime is certainly ready to try.