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''Real World'' spin-off set for VH1

”Real World” spin-off set for VH1 — ”Friends & Lovers” goes inside the bedrooms and bathrooms of five California couples for an all-too-public affair

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MTV’s kids aren’t the only ones whose privacy is being co-opted by Real World cameras — the show’s executive producers are also pitching a network version of the video verite soap starring VH-1-aged couples mostly in their 30s. A pilot episode of Friends & Lovers is circulating at NBC, which is considering picking it up as a mid-season replacement for the coming year. ”It doesn’t have Bill Cosby or Valerie Bertinelli, but it does have a concept that you don’t normally see on prime-time TV,” plugs Real World and Friends co-executive producer Jonathan Murray. ”It’s broader based than The Real World — we don’t use as many MTV-style angles, and the music is toned down — but it still cuts through the clutter of normal network shows.”

Taped over three weeks last March, the hour-long pilot pokes its lenses into the bedrooms and even the bathrooms of five California couples in their late 20s to early 40s (a new, network-approved set of human guinea pigs might be chosen if NBC orders more episodes), capturing such grown-up trauma as pregnancy problems, spousal sparring, and kidney cancer. ”In The Real World, the drama came from put-ting seven strangers in a loft,” says co-executive producer Mary-Ellis Bunim. ”In Friends & Lovers it comes from the dynamics of the individual couples’ relationships.”

But whether that drama will be enough to keep NBC interested is up in the air. ”Friends & Lovers is still under consideration,” was all a tight-lipped network spokesman would say last week.

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