By Josef Adalian
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Hotties of the world, unite: ABC is looking to crown a king or queen of comeliness via a new reality series bluntly titled "Are You Hot?"
The network will launch a nationwide "American Idol"-like search for the sexiest person in America, with a group of tart-tongued judges passing Simon Cowell-esque judgments on folks who think they're all that and a bag of Baked Lays.
ABC has ordered six episodes of "Hot" from gonzo reality producer Mike Fleiss ("The Bachelor"). They will likely will bow early next year.
The series will begin with four episodes in which wannabes from each region of the country compete to become one of 40 quarterfinalists, divided equally between men and women. Viewers will play a part in picking the 16 semifinalists who will fly to Los Angeles to take part in a series of pageant-like competitions as well as makeover treatments. The finale of "Hot" will feature the person deemed "sexiest in America" via viewer calls.
ABC reality chief Andrea Wong said "Hot" will capitalize on the nation's obsession with rating the looks and fashions of celebs and other public figures.
"Everybody has different ideas about who's hot or who's sexy," she said. "You debate it endlessly with your friends, and magazines do it with 'Sexiest People' issues. So we figured, why not do a TV show about it and let America vote?"
ABC and Fleiss are making no bones about the lack of intellectual or creative stimuli involved in "Hot." To that end, it's no surprise that skimpy swimsuits definitely will be a part of the equation, Fleiss said.
"The cool thing about this show is that contestants will be judged with their clothes on and off," he said. "We'll see what we can get away with."
In addition to nationwide, um, exposure, the winner of "Hot" will get a "substantial" six-figure cash prize. But unlike most other beauty competitions, "Hot" will wallow in exploiting (and deflating) the egos and aspirations of those who think they're too sexy for this competition.
"People who think they're good-looking will be put to the test," Fleiss said.
Wong said "Hot" will "poke a little fun at people who think they're sexy."
"You don't have to be talented to be on this show," Wong said. "You don't have to sing, you don't have to dance, you don't have to do anything -- except think you're hot. It's good, pure fun."
In addition to the straight-forward competition part of the show, Fleiss hopes "Hot" will tell the personal stories of some of the contestants, as well as drawing out whatever drama might emerge from so many good-looking folks competing against one another (one word: catfight).
"It's a sexy little show," Fleiss said.
In addition to "Hot," Fleiss is prepping production on "The Will," a reality show for ABC in which a rich benefactor will divvy up his estate via a family competition.
"The Bachelor II" airs its season finale Wednesday, wrapping up an enormously successful run for a show that in recent weeks has become the top-rated reality series among adults 18-49. "The Bachelorette" will likely bow Jan. 8, with another "Bachelor" expected to follow.
It's possible "Hot" could air Wednesdays at 9 in March, after "Bachelorette" but before "Bachelor III." No decisions on scheduling have been made, however.