We admit it — we like to watch. And, judging by the 18 million voyeuristic Americans who’ve been tuning in for CBS’ ”rats and rafts” saga ”Survivor,” we’re not alone. Nor are we at a loss for other Reality TV this summer (or, more precisely, Manufactured Quasi-Reality TV). MTV just kicked off its ninth season of ”The Real World,” and even the normally snooty PBS has gotten in on the game with ”1900 House,” about a British family living as if it were Victorian times (no snot in the peanut butter there, we suspect).
According to the laws of TV, the genre’s burgeoning success can mean only one thing: The networks will soon force-feed us so many ”Survivor” clones that we’ll become as nauseated as a larvae-eating castaway. Here, a virtual reality tour of what the networks have in store.
THE PITCH ”Survivor” meets ”Oz ”
THE SETUP This extremely ”Candid Camera” — which CBS will air beginning July 6 — features 10 hapless volunteers locked in a house for three months, as nearly 30 cameras document their every meltdown. Better yet, viewers get to participate in the sadism by voting out one contestant a week. (The last person standing wins $500,000.) The proudly Orwellian show originated last year in Holland, where it netted huge ratings, thanks in part to a PG-rated on-camera fling between two housemates. ”We showed the moving blankets and the cigarette smoke afterwards,” says cocreator Paul Romer, who notes the U.S. version will be even tamer. ”We have to be a bit careful with nudity…. It would be very easy to select all the shots where they take showers.” Ah, if only Cinemax had picked it up.
ODDS OF SURVIVAL Promos during ”Survivor” ensure a big kickoff; but the five night a week schedule may be too much, even for those of us without a life.
THE PITCH ”Survivor” meets ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”
THE SETUP It’s like finals week — but with prizes! In this Brit import coming soon to Fox, contestants are sequestered for a week to study obscure trivia. Each night, the No-Doz-popping players are quizzed on their knowledge, with the lowest-scoring students kicked off. Says producer Bruce Nash, ”We’re going to need people willing to lose a lot of sleep.”
ODDS OF SURVIVAL Watching people memorize information for up to 14 hours a day? Will viewers be getting No-Doz too?
GO NEW YORK
THE PITCH ”Survivor” meets ”Suddenly Susan ”
THE SETUP Good thing journalists are so darn good-looking! Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray — the brains behind ”The Real World,” ”Survivor”’s nipple-pierced grandfather — are developing this tentatively titled ABC show about a group of exhibitionist scribes launching a webzine. The duo’s site, which is now accepting résumés and head shots, says the cast will slip ”behind the velvet ropes of the most exclusive parties [and] the executive offices… to bring us life as it is lived by Manhattan’s elite.”
ODDS OF SURVIVAL Good pedigree, but may be too inside.com for non-New Yorkers.
THE PITCH ”Survivor” meets ”The Monkees” meets ”Melrose Place”
THE SETUP The land that gave us cultural touchstone Yahoo Serious is at it again. Previously shot in Australia (and about to be shopped to U.S. networks), ”Popstars” tracks a gaggle of spicy song and dance girls as they’re slowly slimmed down to a female pop quintet. The Down Under version was a ratings phenom and helped the band — Bardot — launch a No. 1 single.
ODDS OF SURVIVAL Middling, considering ABC’s similarly themed ”Making the Band” hasn’t struck a chord. Defends exec producer Scott A. Stone: ”There’s a small group of people who will watch five attractive young men, and a large group of people who will watch five attractive young women.”
THE PITCH ”Survivor” meets ”The Fugitive”
THE SETUP Civilians are set loose in three cities and tracked by bounty hunters. Fugitives win cash by eluding trackers, hunters by snagging runners. Clues are posted on the Net ”so everyone in America can get in on the act by arresting the fugitives before the hunters,” explains producer Nash, who says four networks are interested.
ODDS OF SURVIVAL It’s got everything but Harrison Ford, and who needs him anyway?
AND THE REST Want even more wacky pseudo-reality? Among the other in-development projects: ”Life on Mars,” which features a house set up to resemble an outer-space colony; and ”The Bus” — based on yet another Dutch show — which is a sort of magical mystery tour combined with a mobile prison. And then — get this — there’s a show called ”Castaway,” about a bunch of people stranded on an island. Call it ”Survivor” meets, uh, ”Survivor.”