We admit it — we like to watch. And, judging by the 18 million voyeuristic Americans who’ve been tuning in for CBS’ rats-and-rafts saga Survivor, we’re not alone. Nor are we at a loss for other Reality TV this summer (or, more precisely, Manufactured Quasi-Reality TV). MTV just kicked off its ninth season of The Real World, and even the normally snooty PBS has gotten in on the game with 1900 House, about a British family living as if it were Victorian times (no snot in the peanut butter there, we suspect).
According to the laws of TV, the genre’s burgeoning success can mean only one thing: The networks will soon force-feed us so many Survivor clones that we’ll become as nauseated as a larvae-eating castaway. Here, a virtual reality tour of what the networks have in store:
THE PITCH Survivor meets Oz
THE SETUP This extremely Candid Camera — which CBS will air beginning July 6 — features 10 hapless volunteers locked in a house for three months, as nearly 30 cameras document their every meltdown. Better yet, viewers get to participate in the sadism by voting out one contestant a week. (The last person standing wins $500,000.) The proudly Orwellian show originated last year in Holland, where it netted huge ratings, thanks in part to a PG-rated on-camera fling between two housemates. ”We showed the moving blankets and the cigarette smoke afterwards,” says cocreator Paul Romer, who notes the U.S. version will be even tamer. ”We have to be a bit careful with nudity…. It would be very easy to select all the shots where they take showers.” Ah, if only Cinemax had picked it up.
ODDS OF SURVIVAL Promos during Survivor ensure a big kickoff; but the five-night-a-week schedule may be too much, even for those of us without a life.
THE PITCH Survivor meets Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
THE SETUP It’s like finals week — but with prizes! In this Brit import coming soon to Fox, contestants are sequestered for a week to study obscure trivia. Each night, the No-Doz-popping players are quizzed on their knowledge, with the lowest-scoring students kicked off. Says producer Bruce Nash, ”We’re going to need people willing to lose a lot of sleep.”
ODDS OF SURVIVAL Watching people memorize information for up to 14 hours a day? Will viewers be getting No-Doz too?
GO NEW YORK
THE PITCH Survivor meets Suddenly Susan
THE SETUP Good thing journalists are so darn good-looking! Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray — the brains behind The Real World, Survivor‘s nipple-pierced grandfather — are developing this tentatively titled ABC show about a group of exhibitionist scribes launching a webzine. The duo’s site (www.Bunim-Murray.com), which is now accepting resumes and head shots, says the cast will slip ”behind the velvet ropes of the most exclusive parties [and] the executive offices…to bring us life as it is lived by Manhattan’s elite.”
ODDS OF SURVIVAL Good pedigree, but may be too inside.com for non-New Yorkers.