Is he no longer a Survivor?

October 28, 2008

In the wake of MIPCOM, television’s buying and selling junket held on the beaches at Cannes each year, networks around the world have been revealing what they hope to be the big hits of 2009.  Although there was talk of economic downturn the world over, there’s still a thirst for gameshows, crime drama and anything with the word interactive in the pitch. 


Then there’s Mark Burnett, super-producer.  The name behind Survivor, The Apprentice and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader has revealed his latest offering to the tv world.  Live Like You’re Dying is being piloted by CBS.  It’s a reality show that grants terminally ill people a final wish (and the opportunity for them to share that with the viewing public).  Tears are guaranteed as we share time with a perfectly cast dying person embracing what is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.  However, whether they choose to cruise the Nile or beat up Sylvester Stallone, it is hard to believe that we’ll find the proper empathy for anyone who would choose to spend their final days with a camera in their face and a producer saying ‘can you put that thing you said about fearing death into a proper sentence?’.


It takes guts

August 1, 2008

During the 5th season of Seinfeld, I discovered that myself and Jerry had something in common.  The episode was called The Dinner Party – the one where all four characters are shopping for things to take to a friend’s place where they’ve been invited for an evening meal.  Elaine and Jerry are in line at a bakery trying to buy Babka when Jerry downs a black and white cookie that ends up making him ill, thus breaking his 14 year long run of not throwing up.


Now, I haven’t chucked since 1989, when I was sick with some flu.  That’s right, I’ve held on through all of the subsequent heavy drinking years and contagious diseases.  So when I heard about G4’s new gameshow, my stomach did an involuntary flip as I typed the title ‘Hurl’ into Youtube.


The intellectually rigorous premise of Hurl is that strong-stomached contestants (surprisingly, mainly blokes) eat a specifically scheduled choice of foods and then take on physical challenges, while keeping it all down.  The last one to lose their lunch bags $1000.  At least I believe that’s what happens.  I couldn’t bring myself to actually watch the clip, in case my own record was broken.


Hurl hasn’t broken any ratings records, but did top Entertainment Weekly’s list of 35 most appalling TV shows ever. It beat out Cheaters, a show about a dwarf groom looking for love and Jerry Springer. Now that takes real guts.

A pitch for a new TV show often starts with ‘it’s this meets that’. For example, Project Runway is a Victoria Secret Show meets Idol or Wipeout is It’s A Knockout meets Judge Judy (wait til someone sues for permanent injury and the judge has to ask when they thought it was going wrong). Taking this into account, you can imagine the pitch for the UK’s new show Diet on the Dance Floor. It’s Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing With the Stars) meets The Biggest Loser. Over eight episodes tubby contestants sweat it out in choreographed fashion and dance off against one another each week. Both dance style and weight loss will be considered in deciding who gets sent home. As they progress, the dance routines will get more physically challenging as the outfits will undoubtedly get skimpier.

It’s a bit like your slightly tubby uncle meets a patch of sticky carpet late at night in any suburban pub.

BBC3 last week launched a new beauty talent search with a twist – BRITAIN’S MISSING TOP MODEL. Eight spunky girls, each with a disability, battle it out to become England’s next top model. The show’s first episode premiered well, delivering 30% above the broadcaster’s average. It certainly appears that having a limb missing doesn’t affect a contestant’s ability to bitch and moan. The first few minutes preview the entire series. Is it empowering to watch imperfect women getting photographed in underwear or nude? Will we be inspired by watching them roll down the catwalk? And how did they find a wheelchair accessible penthouse for the girls to share??

In this article, a US journalist attends an intensive press launch for Big Brother USA, and suggests that locking up the producers could lead to the Next Big Thing…

Are you for real?

July 9, 2008

Last week Fox Reality Channel in the US announced that it had commissioned a new series that pits former reality tv ‘stars’ against one another to win their very own reality TV show. Obviously they are casting from a very shallow pool of those who were voted off early, because anyone vaguely talented has already been booked for a high profile gig on something like Celebrity Singing Bee or Hole In The Wall. Since production doesn’t start until later in the year there may be time to get involved. A new service offered by The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills may qualify you for Fox. As part of their newly launched Academy program, US$2500 buys you an Emmy award winning crew who’ll document your antics for 24 hours. Like all good reality fodder, the raw footage will be retained by the producers and you’ll be given edited package that surely will only highlight your best qualities.

Only in America

July 1, 2008

With an actor’s strike looming in a post-writer’s strike world, there’s one thing for certain – more reality television. One New Yorker has embraced this opportunity whole heartedly by running classes for wannabe contestants.

If you’ve ever chosen to use your time to wince at Idol auditions, learn business skills from The Trump or feel superior to The Real Housewives of Orange County, then dedicate a few minutes to this brilliant article.

The Apprentice
My day at reality-TV school.
By Troy Patterson