Stallone’s Reality Bites & More Netflix Drama

Sly's still-untitled show is filming in and around the family’s new $35 million Palm Beach estate. Photo: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
September 11, 2022

Is Sylvester Stallone the biggest movie star to ever submit himself and his family to a follow-around reality show? If not, can you think of who was bigger? Schwarzenegger and The Rock have hosted unscripted shows. Clint Eastwood appeared in the 2012 E! effort Mrs. Eastwood and Company, but just barely in a couple episodes. Will Smith’s appearances on Red Table Talk might technically count as train-wreck reality TV, but it’s not a docuseries. And Britney Spears was pretty big when she and Kevin Federline did Chaotic on UPN in 2005. But not Stallone big. This guy was one of the top 3 stars in the world for a good chunk of the 80s and 90s. And at 76, he’s still huge globally, and working constantly. He may have passed on Creed III, as I’ve written, but he’s got the big Taylor Sheridan show Tulsa King coming in November, and his latest movie, Samaritan, was No. 1 on Amazon Prime Video last week.  

So it’s surprising that the Stallone family reality show has received next to zero media coverage. Paramount+, the distributor (also home to Tulsa King), never announced the show (Paramount’s Chris McCarthy is likely waiting for the scripted series to help launch it), and its existence was revealed only by Stallone’s publicist in a weird statement responding to a divorce filing last month by his wife of 25 years, Jennifer Flavin, which apparently prompted Sly to cover a tattoo devoted to her.

So what’s going on? I’m told the still-untitled show is filming in and around the family’s new $35 million Palm Beach estate. The producer is Bunim-Murray (Keeping Up with the Kardashians), and while the show focuses on Stallone’s daughters, the 20-something former Golden Globes Ambassadors—Sophia, Scarlet and Sistine—Sly and Flavin are definitely in it too, Kris and Caitlyn Jenner-style. And they will promote it. Paramount+ won the show in a five-outlet bidding war with a two-season commitment, I’m told. (Par+ declined to comment.) They’re almost done filming, and have continued to shoot even after the divorce filing, with Flavin still participating, despite the fact that she’s petitioning the court for “exclusive use” of the home during the divorce proceedings.

Sounds very awkward, but I’m sure McCarthy is hoping the real-life drama adds fuel for the show. And who knows, maybe the mid-filming divorce was the plan all along. After all, this isn’t the first time that the Stallones have flirted with a reality show. According to a good source, the family sold a pilot presentation to E! in the mid-2010s, but they blew up the deal by trying to replace Shed Media, the production company, with Bunim-Murray. Now they’ve got their preferred producers.

All this is coming at a strange time for Stallone. While he’s not firing and then re-hiring CAA agent Richard Lovett, he seems to be doing some estate planning, selling off his backend profit participations last year, and fighting with Rocky franchise producer Irwin Winkler over Sly’s demand that he be cut in on ownership. People who have spoken with Stallone say he wants to set his daughters up to produce Rocky movies after he’s gone, so perhaps this reality show is part of that career-building effort.

Netflix Cuts ‘Employer Brand’ Flacks

On Thursday, I wrote about the problems facing the Netflix “culture” as evangelized in Reed Hastings’s 2020 book, No Rules Rules, in the wake of its stock nose-dive and the recent pivots toward a more traditional media business. Turns out Netflix is facing those culture image issues without the help of the team charged with promoting that culture. As part of its recent re-org, I’m told Netflix has lost its “employer brand” comms team, a group of about three or four flacks charged with, among other things, telling “stories about Netflix’s unorthodox management culture” via “press, editorial, speaking engagements, employer branding and social media,” according to one recently exited executive’s LinkedIn page. Basically, they worked the media to show how great and innovative the Netflix culture is—which included, of course, managing the launch of No Rules Rules. (Netflix declined to comment but a source there says their duties will be absorbed by others.)     

Finally, a few Emmys questions I’m asking:

1. If any of the Disney shows win, will anyone dare thank Peter Rice, the ousted TV chief?

2. Will nice-guy host Kenan Thompson take any much-deserved swipes at Peacock? 

3. Will Seth Rogen, nominated for Pam & Tommy, be allowed anywhere near the stage after last year’s “What are we doing? I would not have come to this” rant about lax Covid protocols? 

4. If Ted Lasso wins for comedy series, will Apple or Warner Bros. Television be first out with its self-congratulatory press release?

5. If Shonda Rhimes, Vince Gilligan, or any of the former ICM Partners clients win, will we get an impromptu eulogy for their recently merged-out-of-existence agency? (That was a trick question: Stars don’t actually care about their agencies!)

6.  If Netflix beats HBO, or HBO beats Netflix, will the media control its collective urge to declare the loser creatively dead?

7. Will a single victorious executive pause for a moment of stark reflection to contemplate whether all this silly, ego-driven fanfare and six months of campaigning seems inappropriate in the face of an industry-wide financial reckoning and a total re-examination of the business model of television—a model that for a decade has prioritized outspending rivals to create “buzz” and “noise” in an unproven business, streaming, largely for an industry-specific audience of people like Emmy voters, but which now must increasingly focus on the bottom line, which means meat-and-potatoes audience and revenue generation, a reality that necessarily leads to more populist and not necessarily “quality” television, like the show that won the the award currently in their very hand?