By David Bauder
NEW YORK – Toni Braxton is the latest celebrity to open her home to reality television cameras.
Braxton, the Grammy-winning singer of “Un-Break My Heart” and “You’re Makin’ Me High,” will appear in “Braxton Family Values” on the WE network starting in April. Braxton’s sisters — Traci, Towanda, Trina and Tamar — are all aspiring singers.
The WE network appeals chiefly to women, and with Oprah Winfrey’s new OWN network going on the air last weekend, it is looking to sharpen its focus for viewers. The network said it will emphasize programs that feature families.
WE executives said they will also renew the series “Downsized,” about a family struggling through tough economic times. “Staten Island Cakes,” which is repetitive of other cable reality programs about high-end bakers, will debut this summer. The show is about a 21-year-old baker whose mother and sister work for him — and who is bossed by them at home.
The dynamic of four women trying to follow the 43-year-old Braxton into show business — with varying levels of success — appealed to WE executives. The network’s research indicated that programs about families, often with a humorous touch, is a niche worth exploring.
On Jan. 25, WE is debuting a series about Joan Rivers and daughter, Melissa, along with “A Stand Up Mother,” about comedian Tammy Pescatelli trying to balance family and career.
“Our goal is to put on families that are big personalities, who are interesting, entertaining, full of drama and conflict and you can’t wait to tune in next week,” Kim Martin, the network’s president and general manager, said recently.
WE believes family members who are emotionally invested in one another will make for situations that ring truer than reality fare where strangers are forced together in contrived circumstances, said John Miller, the network’s programming chief.
“Our goal is not to look at family viewing,” Martin said. “Our goal is to show families, because women define themselves by the relationships in their lives.”
Viewers relate to the family in “Downsized,” particularly the boy who sold his baseball mitt to raise money, Martin said. The show’s audience was about twice the size of what WE had previously aired on Saturday nights, she said.