Reality marches on. This month, four new weekly reality series will get going, including the follow-up to this summer's CBS phenomenon Survivor.
ABC will be the first out the gate, Tuesday, Jan. 9, with The Mole, a weekly series that follows ten people through four countries in search of a saboteur among them.
A day later at Fox, the first of a potential slew of weekly reality projects debuts with a sexy Temptation Island.
Four unmarried, but "committed" couples are plopped on an island with 30 single men and women and tempted to cheat on their mate. The WB, which had resisted the reality craze, gets into the act on Jan. 12 with Pop Stars-a female version of last season's ABC series Making The Band. Five "real" teen-age girls form a pop band; the series follows them all the way through their first concert.
The big piece is Survivor: The Australian Outback,
which gets under way after the Super Bowl on Jan. 28, and then, somewhat surprisingly, plays every week on Thursdays against NBC's Friends.
The second installment of the most-watched summer series in TV history will follow a new group of 16 contestants, in 13 episodes.
"I think we all learned a lesson with the game show craze last year-that it's not always easy to imitate something that's successful," says CBS Senior Vice President Kelly Kahl. "And over the next few weeks there are a number of imitations coming out that are like Survivor in some form. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We'll find out how they do and we do."
The original Survivor
ran on Wednesday nights last summer and some rival network executives believed the follow-up would wind up there too. CBS chose to fix its struggling Thursday nights instead.
"It's not really about trying to tear down Friends.
It's really an attempt to improve our own performance," says Kahl. "We have had a decent season so far, but right now Thursday night is really just dragging us down."
Kahl says CBS programming mavens will meet early this month to decide the rest of CBS' Thursday night lineup. But it appears the network is considering moving freshman hit drama C.S.I. from Fridays to Thursdays and also launch its new David Milch (NYPD Blue) drama Big Apple
Meanwhile ABC is hoping The Mole
can do for it what Survivor
did for CBS. The nine-week series, based on a Belgian-format, features 10 players who need to find out who the "mole" is among them. At the end of each episode, the group is given a quiz on the mole's identity; the player with the least information is ousted. The last person standing can win up to $1 million.
"In all of these other reality shows, it's a popularity contest and you are watching to see who wins," says Scott Stone, executive producer for Stone Stanley Entertainment. "The winner in The Mole
is almost secondary to the who-done-it."
Stone Stanley Entertainment is also behind The WB's Pop Stars,
a half-hour weekly series airing for 13 weeks, and culminating in a live concert.
Fox is hoping to use Temptation Island, which is produced by Rocket Science Laboratories, as a Wednesday night "bridge" between the middle of January and the start of March. By then, Fox will be able to launch at least one new comedy-The Tick
and The College Experience
are being readied. Also waiting on the Fox reality deck are Love Cruise
and Boot Camp.