An overdose of reality
Loads of unscripted programs are in the works
By DONNA PETROZZELLO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Reality television is going places few Hollywood scriptwriters could imagine.
Faster than Donald Trump can utter "You're fired!" producers are coming up with often wacky ideas.
Consider these shows being hammered out now:
- A reality series built around Victoria Gotti, daughter of late mobster John Gotti, for, of all places, the A&E Network. It's been described as a show following a typical family. But, of course, the Gottis are anything but typical.
- Billionaire bad boy Mark Cuban will front an "Apprentice"-like series for ABC called "The Benefactor," in which the player able to survive his or her time with the hotheaded Dallas Mavericks owner will get $1 million.
- A Southern California family of mortuary workers will serve as the backdrop for an A&E reality series, "Family Plots."
- Sylvester Stallone has teamed with "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett for "The Contender," a series featuring 16 aspiring boxers all looking for a contract. It will launch in the summer on NBC.
- Burnett, who followed chef Rocco DiSpirito as he opened his downtown restaurant, will track two moguls opening a Las Vegas casino in a June show for Fox, "The Casino."
- UPN is working on a program that would drop a group of Amish teenagers into an urban environment, creating a fish-out-of-water situation.
Adding to the craziness, there's been talk of every major and two-bit celebrity getting a reality show, including publicity princess — and terrible driver — Lizzie Grubman in a series similar to Trump's "Apprentice."
Hey, if Paris Hilton can be a TV player, why not anyone else?
For celebrities, getting a reality show has become like one of those must-have dogs they carry around in a tote bag. It's an accessory they can't be without.
So much so that MTV recently signed deals with Hilary Duff, Cameron Diaz, Foxy Brown and Frankie Muniz to develop reality-based programs.
"Audiences want something new and inventive," said Mike Fleiss, the mind behind such hits as ABC's "Bachelor" franchise and WB's "High School Reunion." "Then the challenge is to give them something that's got legs and can stick around for more than one season."
Fleiss is one of the producers working on the edge. While his "Bachelor" has become the model for all reality dating shows, Fleiss was also the producer of "Are You Hot," a flesh fest that was roundly panned.
Fleiss recently got CBS to commit to "The Will," an out-there concept that will have a family playing for a piece of a wealthy benefactor's dough. CBS is searching for rich folks willing to put up their fortune — and put their family on television.
Fleiss characterizes the "The Will" as "reality TV meets 'Dynasty.'"
But before those shows hit the airwaves, there's already a gaggle of series set to launch in the coming days, weeks and months.
Tonight, NBC launches "Average Joe: Adam Returns," a followup to "Average Joe" starring reject Adam Mesh, who will select from a harem who wrote to NBC after he was dumped on the first edition.
On March 29, Fox will air "The Swan," a show where women who are considered ugly ducklings get total makeovers — physical, mental, whatever.
And WB just started a new season of "High School Reunion," which throws former schoolmates together with the hopes of creating fireworks.