Even more reality TV
Just when one thought programmers were through with the genre, they come up with still more ideas
By Susanne Ault -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/26/2000 7:00:00 PM
With CBS' Survivor II, ABC's The Mole, The WB's Popstars and UPN's Road Rage all coming down the pike midseason, programmers have to be running out of room for any new riffs on reality TV.
Guess again. Modern Entertainment, the U.S. sales arm of Stockholm-based Strix (the production company behind Scandinavia's Expedition Robinson, aprecursor to Survivor), thinks it can tempt TV executives with a lot more spins of the genre.
Modern Entertainment just sold Strix's format, Trading Places, to The WB. While the network hasn't slotted a definite spot for Trading Places (the project: switching the lives of two completely different families for a week), Modern believes The WB pickup proves that it hasn't missed the boat on the trend in the U.S. It's currently in development.
To demonstrate to The WB, "We took a family that works and lives at the Salvation Army and transplanted them with a family of motorcycle riders," explains Michael Weiser, Modern Entertainment's president and CEO. "The bikers have to collect donations from the street, and the Salvation Army family has to learn how to run a garage-it's true, fish-out-of-water stuff, and a lot of fun to watch."
Admittedly, "you won't have a truck driver or a CEO of a billion-dollar company change jobs," says Weiser. "But there are hundreds of possible combinations for the show," which debuted in Sweden last year.
Although Modern seems a little late getting in on the U.S. reality-format game, its producing partner Strix does know how to pick them-it acquired the idea for Survivor from producer Charlie Parsons a full four years before Mark Burnett (behind CBS' Survivor and Survivor II) did the same.
Prior to Burnett smelling success, Strix had already launched versions of Survivor in Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria and Belgium. Also, Burnett nabbed Strix to act as paid consultants for the U.S. version of Survivor.
"If everyone knew Survivor was going to be such a big deal, they would have bought it before we did," says Weiser.
Another format Modern is shopping to network, cable and syndication outlets is The Bar, which Modern bets can do even better than Survivor.
Following 12 strangers trying to turn a fledgling bar into a moneymaking business, " The Bar is the most successful show we have produced since Expedition Robinson, so ithas the potential to be every bit as big as Survivor," Weiser contends.
The Bar calls for contestants to compete to be the best servers, cooks and bartenders for prize money. Viewers must frequent The Bar to generate its profits and viewers ultimately select the show's final winner.
Sweden's won $10,000 but Modern says the U.S. top dog would likely net $500,000 and an ownership stake in the restaurant. Also, for the U.S. version, Modern hopes to partner with such popular eateries as TGI Friday's or Hooters.
"The biggest kick to this is they're not just sitting in an apartment, but they're working, they're running a business. It's one of the few reality shows where contestants interact on a regular basis with the real world," says Weiser. "Plus, The Bar is already airing in Scandinavia, and it's crushing Big Brother, which it runs against."
Yeah, but how hard is it to beat the critically panned Big Brother?
Over there, " Big Brother did not do badly at all," insists Mark Itkin, senior vice president at the William Morris Agency.
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