America’s next top reality show? by Stanley Bing @FortuneMagazine June 5, 2009, 3:43 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons It’s clear I’m in the wrong business. With everything else that’s going on in the world, any stroll past a magazine stand will tell you that the majority of public interest continues to focus on Jon & Kate. Why to any of bother to focus on anything else? That’s where the money is, clearly. Yet one day, as impossible as it may seem, the fascinating situation surrounding two of television’s hottest reality stars will be over. Jon & Kate will have exploded into a ball of flaming chicken fat. Their kids will, I am sure, all be tabloid material of their own. And the great, suppurating maw of popular entertainment will be in need of new heros willing to let it all hang out for Mother. I mean to get into the action next time around. So I’ve studied the situation, both as a professional and as a consumer of anything that will engage my dwindling attention span. And having looked deeply into the landscape, I believe I have come up with the quintessential next steps in the march of time. Two programs I think could really make it and push the envelope until it squeals. I’m looking for investors. Tell me which one you want to get in on. 1. Married Until We Got To Them picks up where Jon & Kate leaves off, takes what was wildly popular about that program and jettisons the rest. Gone are the kids. Gone is everything but the weekly update on how two people are going about the business of tearing their marriage apart with infidelity, betrayal, violence, drunkeness and, if it’s on cable, as much nudity as possible, all financed by the willing couple’s weekly stipend from the production company. In later weeks, an added element could be introduced — other miscreant pairs prepared to strip themselves bare (sometimes literally) for the notoriety and money. Couples could compete for a prize awarded to the one that can fall apart fastest. Or possibly even engage in interesting new configurations, depending on the daypart in which the program airs. To date, all reality programs have provided a framework for the display of human frailty, a plot contrivance of some sort. This program completely dispenses with that and simply cuts to the chase. Cheap to produce. Almost writes itself. Hard to see how it could fail. Second, and possibly even more interesting, is a show I’m calling So You’re Too Fat To Dance? A mix of several genres, this one puts it all together for pure, guilty pleasure. Contestants join the show when still very adipose, pleasant people who really can’t dance very well at all. They try, but they for the most part fail to accomplish the complicated choreography outlined for them by the show’s panel of showbiz sadists. Over the 16 weeks, contestants are put through a grueling regime of diet and exercise in which they lose tons of weight very quickly, putting their health at risk while at the same time making themselves far more flexible, pliant and capable of graceful dives, sweeps and fancy footwork. By the end of the series, we have a few people who punished themselves enough to make the grade and dance off with the prize, and probably a lot more who fell by the wayside, panting. Part make-over, part weight loss, part exercise in pure humiliation, I think this show will have it all. That’s only the first two that I’m currently working on, although a third is taking shape in my mind, something about a worldwide hunt for the money stolen by Bernie Madoff, kind of a cross between The Amazing Race and Treasure Hunt with Stubby Kaye. Clearly, however, the upside here is huge. With the ascension of a couple who has nothing to offer but their misery, a new barrier has apparently been broken down. When a new door like that opens, it doesn’t take a genius to know that opportunity may well lie on the other side of the transom. Those interested in an investment that’s certainly as solid as any other may drop me a line.