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Reality rolls at Fox

Still eschewing 'heroin' reality, Fox rides post- 'Survivor' wave 9/24/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern

The network that was burned by Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? and swore off When Good Pets Go Bad is still very much in the reality business.

Survivor, Big Brother, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Destination Mir have forced Fox's reality guru, Mike Darnell, to crank up his FOX reality machine once again at the network that was all but swearing off reality programming last year because it was "killing the brand."

While FOX executives reiterate that they will continue to avoid "exploitative" reality programs like When Animals Attack, reality will be a mainstay on Fox's lineup, particularly midseason.

"Reality is and will continue to play a big role here," says new FOX Entertainment President Gail Berman. "We will launch our season with the Sexiest Bachelor in America pageant; that's reality. We are in the reality business at this network. Saturday night is one of our top nights with Cops and America's Most Wanted, and we have not shied away from that. You will absolutely see fresh and new reality programs on the network."

Says Darnell, Fox's executive vice president of alternative and special programming, "We are very busy. I don't believe I've ever had this much material going at once. Survivor has definitely given us a shot in the arm."

That reminds us. Isn't FOX the one that, faced with sinking ratings, labeled reality the "heroin" it needed to kick? That was before Survivor, of course. But doesn't Sexiest Bachelor in America sound a lot like the much maligned Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?

"They're nothing alike, and we're not worried at all," says Darnell. "If you are going to be worried about [Bachelor], then you might as well be worried about doing Miss America. It's the same thing, only with men instead of women. And no one is getting married in the end. They get their crown, and they leave."

Also coming next month for the November sweeps is a second installment of The Smartest Kid in America and a handful of other reality specials, including two relationship shows.

It's midseason, however, that has Darnell working overtime.

His division has ordered six "episodic" or Survivor-like series for midseason: Love Cruise, Temptation Island,Boot Camp, Only Joking, Million Dollar Mysteries and a remake of In Search Of. FOX executives have also ordered additional episodes of Guinness World Records and Police Videos.

The producer of MTV's Real World and Road Rules, Bunim-Murray, is behind Love Cruise, which is being taped off Aruba. Sixteen single men and women will be paired up on a Windjammer cruise and eliminated until one couple is left.

Temptation Island, being taped at a resort off Belize, will feature four couples (who have been together for at least one year) testing the waters with other single men and women. FOX is putting more than two dozen single people on the island who will be paired with the male and female contestants in relationships. Darnell says there will be plenty of "Survivor-like" contests along the way. Six episodes have been ordered.

In Million Dollar Mysteries from Next Entertainment, the producers of Multi-millionaire, FOX will retell unsolved mysteries that have big rewards already attached to them, including one that has a $5 million bounty.

Only Joking is based on a European series described as Candid Camera with a hook.

And FOX is bringing back In Search Of as a weekly series. This time, though, the producers of The Blair Witch Project will be producing a "scarier" version.

Reality check/Fox's midseason orders for reality series

Show No. of episodes

Temptation Island


Love Cruise


Boot Camp


In Search Of.


Only Joking


Million Dollar Mysteries


Guinness World Records: Primetime


Police Videos


Source: FOX Broadcasting Co.


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