Maybe they should call it The Bummer. On Oct. 19 ABC put The Runner, the reality show Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had been developing under their LivePlanet shingle for a January launch, on indefinite hiatus. While ABC blamed ”the current entertainment environment” for the move, The Runner had already shown signs of stumbling: The network declined to show footage when announcing its place on the schedule last May.
The main trouble was the premise, in which one player attempts to elude a nation of Internet-savvy viewers helping to hunt him (or her) down for a share in a $1 million prize. But how can you host a national manhunt after Sept. 11? According to one LivePlanet investor, ”The problem was…having people with boom mics chasing this guy across the country in this time of heightened security.”
An early test run of the series last spring revealed a host of other problems, including budget overruns. Besides the vans and satellite phones needed for a crew of more than 30, one person close to the show says ABC had to bankroll the Runner’s every whim — including the chartering of a plane. Then there was the difficulty of getting permission waivers from bystanders — and the obvious worries about the Runner’s personal safety.
”We’ve overcome those concerns,” responds Keith Quinn, vice president of marketing for LivePlanet. As for security issues, ”We designed the game so that there was no incentive or need to approach or touch the Runner at any time.” Unfortunately, ABC seems to feel the same way.