Hans Christian Andersen understood that, with a little love, encouragement and maturity, even the most awkward child could grow up into a graceful swan. But he probably wasn't considering the wonders of plastic surgery, highlights and makeovers when he wrote his classic children's story The Ugly Duckling.
Luckily for the American television audience, Fox understands all those wonders and has ordered six episodes of new reality show The Swan
from producer FremantleMedia, which is responsible for hit reality franchise American Idol. The Swan
will follow women as they undergo life makeovers—from such simple changes as new hair and makeup to more in-depth processes like plastic surgery, speech therapy and life coaching—and then compete against each other in a televised two-hour beauty pageant.
"It's the Extreme Makeover Beauty Pageant," says Mike Darnell, Fox's executive vice president of alternative programming, referring to ABC's successful reality program. "We've taken an idea and twisted it and meshed it together. If it were just a strict beauty pageant, it wouldn't be nearly as interesting."
The show has been in development at Fox for five or six months, he says. Independent producer Nely Galan brought the idea to Fox and Fremantle, and agency William Morris ultimately packaged the deal. Galan remains on board as an executive producer, but a day-to-day showrunner has not yet been selected.
Fremantle's producers are scouring the U.S. for women ages 22 to 38 to participate for episodes that will be shot in early 2004. With the contestants needing time to heal after surgery, the earliest the show will air on Fox is late midseason 2004. If the show does well, Darnell said, "we'll crown a new swan every year."
Fox and Fremantle will recruit contestants for the show in Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; New York; and Phoenix on Oct. 18; in Chicago; Las Vegas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Philadelphia on Oct. 22; and in Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Seattle on Oct. 26. Potential contestants also can submit tapes to the producers by Nov. 1.