Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle TV Eye

More of the Same

By Belinda Acosta

JULY 24, 2000:  Have you had your fill of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Are you stuffed to the gills from consuming too many hours of Survivor, Big Brother, The Real World, Road Rules, or Making the Band?

That's too bad, because there's a pu-pu platter of trivia game shows and reality shows in the making. Here's a peek at what's in development:

The People Versus: From the folks who brought you Millionaire comes trivia quiz show in which contestants select their subject areas. Questions are posed by wannabe contestants via e-mail or telephone. Correct answers earn $7,500 apiece. Wrong answers mean the contestant must step aside for the person who posed the question. The show is still in development, and it hasn't been shopped to the networks yet, though landing on ABC, home of Millionaire, is not unlikely.

2-Minute Drill: Michael Davies, the man behind Millionaire, is developing a trivia game show for ESPN with Andrew Golder, the man behind Comedy Central's Win Ben Stein's Money. A September 11 launch date is planned.

Un Millón: Spanish-language network Univision plans to launch this new game show on Sunday nights in the fall. It's unclear whether the format will be similar to that other game show with "million" in the title.

Speaking of Millionaire, producers hope to follow up on the success of the celebrity version of Millionaire with two, event-flavored versions. One would feature former Olympic athletes as guest contestants to air in conjunction with the Olympic Games in Sydney. The second will be a special Emmy edition of Millionaire, presented around Emmy Awards time. (More on the Emmy Awards below).

Enough game shows! How about another heaping helping of reality shows?

The Fox Family Channel announced plans for a Halloween special featuring a family challenged to stay an entire week in "the most haunted castle on earth," while the cameras roll and America tunes in. Duh! Don't the creators know that no self-respecting ghost or creature of the night is going to show up on camera? Could be amusing, though, if the imaginations of the family members makes them chase their own tails with self-induced fright.

Frankly, I thought the recent "highbrow" version of PBS's own reality show The 1900 House was much more frightening: A contemporary British family voluntarily takes on the roles of a 1900-era family -- living in a "quaint" 1900-style house with no electricity, all those undergarments, no deodorant, and housework for the mother 24/7. Now that's scary.

PopStars: The WB's version of Making the Band, this time with girls. PopStars should be a midseason entry.

The prize for bringing together the million-dollar game show and the reality series goes to actor-pals Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Their reality series Greenlight was given the, uh, greenlight from HBO. This 13-episode series follows a director given a million dollars to make his or her first movie. As executive producers, Damon and Affleck will select the filmmaker (with Miramax's input) through the Internet. Greenlight should premiere in 2002, but information on how to be considered as the million-dollar filmmaker is available now at www.projectgreenlight.com.


Big Brother Is Watching. Is Anyone Else?

Last week's "TV Eye" was devoted to head-scratching over Big Brother, the newest excursion into reality/voyeur TV. I caught glimpses of the show throughout the week, and though I have a few more thoughts, my opinion of the show hasn't changed. Watching William (aka Mega) and Jordan -- the self-described triathlete and writer, otherwise known as a dancer in a strip club -- work out in the back yard by doing high-knee kicks back and forth across the patio pretty much creates catatonia. And if Karen, the 43-year-old mother of four, isn't a nervous breakdown in the making, I don't know what is. The group should shove her out of the house with a note pinned to her sleeve that reads, "Needs therapy, a marriage counselor, or a divorce lawyer. Take your pick."

The one moment the show did get interesting was during a heated discussion between William and Brittany, a 25-year-old from Minneapolis, over the most difficult topic of discussion in this nation: race. Their exchange was difficult. Tears were shed, and points of view were expressed, sometimes eloquently, mostly clumsily. All of which made me wonder: What if, during the stay in the house, a major topic like race was a mandatory issue for discussion? The rest of the show's ground rules could remain the same, but no one could leave the house until they engaged in a discussion of the hot topic. Just a thought.

Speaking of race, The New York Daily News reported last Friday that William is also known as Hiram Ashantee, a close associate of Khalid Abdul Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader asked to leave the group following off-color comments he made about Jews and encouraging participants at the 1998 Million Youth March to attack police. It's doubtful that any of the Big Brother housemates knew this when they voted William as one of the two housemates "marked for banishment." His gal pal Jordan was the other one, apparently because she rolled her eyes one too many times and "didn't try to fit in."

If Jordan leaves, what will become of "Jordan-cam"? There were so many images of her -- Jordan washing her face, Jordan climbing into bed, Jordan tucking herself into bed, Jordan brushing her hair -- I began to wonder what the other 10 people in the house were there for, except to interact with Jordan. Perhaps the Big Brother director thought that since she is an exotic dancer, her daily rituals would be exceptionally titillating. Wrong. When Jordan and buddy William were marked as the chosen ones, she challenged the group to explain why. When the camera showed the other housemates, all of them -- especially the most vociferous ones in the confessional camera room where the housemates cast their votes -- averted their eyes and looked at the floor. Where's the remote?


And the Nominees Are ...

By the time you read this, the nominations for the 52nd Annual Emmy Awards will have been announced. My predictions? I'm not going down that slippery slope yet. Let's stick to what I do know: Garry Shandling will host the Emmy Awards, set for Sunday, September 10, on ABC. Next week's "TV Eye" will feature a reaction to the nominations, with counter-nominations for the Second Annual Clare Awards, awarded unceremoniously by moi, and named for St. Clare of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Television.


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