Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but I worked on a reality TV show once. It was way back in the day when the only reality on the UK tube was Big Brother (before BB hit the US) and all those British gardening shows which have been around since TV was radio.
I worked in the interactive department of a UK teen TV channel called Trouble. We developed Cruel Summer, which took 12 hapless teens and trapped them at a fancy private school (fun fact: in Britain they're called public schools) for 6 weeks while we made them eat disgusting things. Basic, right?
But our audience loved it. And I mean. They. LOVED. It. There were people just like them, with the same accents and the same haircuts, on TV. Which was a super-huge deal for our audience, because mostly our channel just showed That 70s Show and Fresh Prince over and over.
My job was to moderate the chat rooms, edit all the web cam footage for the 'soapy' bits of the broadcast show, and shoot little three-minute webisodes - back before the word even existed. Something I learned about teenage girls is that they're more than happy to get undressed in front of a web cam even though/because they know that adult males from the production company are watching everything they do. It was kind of creepy.
Other than inappropriate nudity, working on the show was pretty fun. Mostly because it meant that instead of doing my normal office job (with unreasonably annoying bosses looking over my shoulder every minute), I got to be on location, hanging out with my co-workers and being creative. Kind of.
Oh, and we got to swim in the school's outdoor pool at lunchtime.
After reflecting on Cruel Summer (and the sequels Cruel School, Cruel Winter and Cruel Summer 2), I've realized that being a TV writer is much too hard. Why go to all the trouble of writing those onerous script thingys when you can just audition a bunch of It Kid wannabes and torture them? Plus, if you create reality TV, you don't have to worry about residuals, because no one is ever going to pay to download that dreck.
The other night while I couldn't sleep, a few great reality ideas came to me in a dream. Here they are:
Kitchen Nightmares: Vermin Edition
Are You Smarter than a Marshmallow?
America's Next Top Mop.
America's Next Mop Top.
Are You Smarter than a Mop?
I'm not sure what the obsession is with mops. I guess my house needs cleaning.
I've also read a few reality ideas on other sites that really got me excited. My two favorites (can't remember where they came from):
America's Next Top Reality Show Idea
Are You Smarter Than a Sixth Grader?
C'mon everyone! With great ideas like this just hanging out in the ether for anyone to grab, why sweat it out trying to be a writer?
Things that are clogging my arteries
I've been volunteering for Write Girl, a super-cool organization that mentors teenage girls and encourages them to write and think and make the most of their writerly abilities. Today we had a potluck volunteer event. I was part of the clean-up committee, and as such, was forced to take home an entire box of left-over donuts and pastries. They'll be clogging my bloodstream and those of my friends for many many days to come.
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