For the voyeur in us

Aiming to repeat 'Survivor' success, event fomat explodes
Author:
Publish date:

You want reality? While Hollywood is not exactly known for that, agents and producers are suddenly shopping what some insiders say are more than 200 different "event" formats mimicking CBS' Survivor.

"Everyone is really getting aggressive out there," says NBC Entertainment President Garth Ancier. "There is a bit of a frenzy for the programming, and that's OK. We are trying to decide what we would like to do that is not derivative but takes advantage of some of the things that the audience is clearly saying about wanting to watch real people on television."

CBS last week unveiled final plans for the launch of Big Brother, the network's five-night-a-week voyeuristic series set to run from July 5 to Sept. 30. For about 90 episodes, five men and five women, all strangers, will live in a specially rigged 1,800-square-foot home. Inside are 28 cameras and 60 microphones. Outside is a chicken coop (for eggs only; no killing the chickens, CBS says), a mini-swimming pool and a vegetable garden. Someone will be voted out each week with viewers' help, the last one in the house getting $500,000.

There's more to come. ABC jumped in the Survivor-clone pool, signing a pact with Stone Stanley Entertainment last week to produce The Mole, probably for mid-season. Based on a Belgian TV format, it follows 10 contestants working as a team to accomplish "outrageous" tasks. For each success, they win more money. The twist: One contestant is a mole attempting to sabotage the team's efforts.

Sources confirm that ABC executives are also looking at The Runner, described as a somehow more "real" version of The Fugitive, produced by actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

CBS Television CEO and President Leslie Moonves says he thinks Big Brother "could be an even bigger event" than the tribal drama being played out on Survivor. (It has created a mini-controversy at CBS itself. Julie Chen, an anchor on CBS News' Early Show will host a weekly Thursday-night prime time discussion of Big Brother-to some observers, blurring the division between news and entertainment. "It's wrong," CBS News curmudgeon Andy Rooney told USA Today.)

"The face of television has changed dramatically in the last 10 months," says Moonves, "and I think what this last year has taught us is that there are no rules in what is going to work and what's not."

America Online will provide 24-hour coverage of Big Brother on the Web. CBS promises that no nudity or obscenities will air (the show will be edited on a one-day turnaround), although that might not be the case with the Webcast.

Unlike Survivor, which CBS sold to just eight advertisers, Big Brother will have a variety of sponsors. Survivor spots went for a reported $200,000 to $300,000 per unit, with some spots in the final episode costing twice as much; the network hopes it can work the same magic with Big Brother.

Others want in on that gravy train, of course. Stone Stanley is also producing All You Need Is Love, a reality/relationship pilot for Tribune Entertainment that helps contestants fulfill their relationship fantasies, based on a Dutch format already working in 13 European markets. Like Big Brother, it comes from Endemol Entertainment and will likely be brought into first-run syndication in fall 2001. Stone Stanley is also working on Pop Stars, an Australian format that follows five young women who want to be the next Spice Girls.

Endemol has a number of other reality formats, including The Bus, which the company is looking to sell here in the U.S. The Bus, which recently debuted in The Netherlands, is a Big Brother hybrid that takes place on a double-decker bus-with the contestants on the top floor and technical crew on the bottom.

Related