Wednesday, April 18, 2007

From: Mark Burnett, Producer of Survivor

Dear Friends,

My idea to racially segregate the teams on the recent season of Survivor: Cook Islands was a success. It scored great ratings and made Survivor a hot topic once again. The controversy surrounding it paid off, as controversy usually does in this business of television. Inspired, I have come up with the idea of using other shameful practices and periods of the past to update several popular reality shows. I think this could be the “new wave” of reality TV we’ve all been looking for. Here are some of the ideas I’d like to try in upcoming seasons :

The Apprentice: Indentured Servitude
In this show, sixteen professionals would compete for the chance to become the bonded servant of a prominent business or media mogul. The winner would enter into an indentured contract in which he or she would be bound to serve the mogul for five years time as a personal valet, gardener, or something along those lines. Attempting to leave the position before the five years is up would result in jail time.

The Surreal Life: Caste System
In keeping with past seasons of this show, all of the housemates would be celebrities. However, they would be divided by their A-, B-, C-, or D-list status into separate castes. Movie stars, obviously, would tend to occupy the A-list caste, whereas past reality contestants would gravitate towards the untouchable D-list caste. The D-list caste could not speak unless spoken to or look those of the higher castes in the eyes. They would also be expected to perform a variety of menial tasks.

The Amazing Race: Trail of Tears
Contestants are divided into several two-person teams. Each team will race from Georgia to Oklahoma. Their different routes will correspond to the routes taken by tribes of the Cherokee Nation during the forced Trail of Tears march in 1838. The teams will face various challenges along the way, including shortages of food and blankets, lies from the government, and simulated U.S. cavalry raids.

America’s Next Top Geisha
Our representatives will scour the country for elegant and attractive young women. These contestants will be trained in the ways of the Geisha. They will learn all of the secrets of this ancient Japanese profession. Viewers will then see them take on clients and put this art to work as “courtesans.” At the end of the season, the clients who have partaken of their services will vote to determine America’s Next Top Geisha.

Real World Siberian Gulag
This show would recall the spirit of the Stalinist era. Instead of a swanky Key West or San Diego pad, seven twentysomethings would share a recreated labor camp in Siberia for three months. What happens when seven strangers have to learn to get along and get real while being subjected to hard labor all day on empty stomachs?

The Bachelor: Arranged Marriage
We choose one wealthy single man, and twenty young women. The families of these women will try to arrange a marriage between their daughters and the bachelor. The bachelor will not be allowed to see any of the young women prior to the marriage. If a family can convince the bachelor that their dowry is the largest, and that their daughter is the most beautiful, then she just might become the lucky bride.

Extreme Makeover: Foot-Binding Edition
This is a multi-season concept. In this show, several female contestants, all of them around the age of six, would be chosen. In keeping with the traditions of Imperial China, their feet would be firmly bound. Viewers would have to wait twelve years to see who will be crowned the winner. The winner, of course, will be the contestant with the most perfectly formed miniscule feet.

Judge Judy: The Witchcraft Trials
Popular television judge Judy Sheindlin will take the helm of the first witchcraft trials in the U.S. since the 17th century. People from around the country who suspect others of being satanic, or who just think their neighbors dress too Goth, can haul them before this court. Judge Judy will employ the tried and true methods of examination such as binding and dunking the suspect in a river to see if they sink or float.

Big Brother: Plantation House
The contestants are separated into two teams. The teams are divided into a “Slave” team and a “Master” team. The Master team lives in a large house, while the Slave team lives in a small cabin behind it. The Slave team grows all of the food that the Master team eats. The Slaves can attempt to escape to “Freedom,” which entails a large cash prize, but if they are caught they are “Whipped,” or rather kicked off the show (but seriously, they do get whipped on camera as well). Master contestants earn cash prizes by catching escaped Slaves.

I hope you feel as good about these as I do. I really think the American public will warm to these ideas.

Yours truly,
Mark Burnett

Shap Sweeney is a New York based person who works in creative development for television. He is also a writer. He has to spell his first name out for people pretty much every time he meets anyone. This has made life quite a struggle, which is why he plans to retire at 29.

More Fake Reality

Next time on The Surreal Life” by Matthew Tobey
Mary Lou Retton becomes incensed when the Indian from the Village People leaves the toilet seat up again, but things are in a decidedly sunnier mood on the other end of the house where Dustin “Screech” Diamond has fallen head over heels for a giant moth pupa. Will his feelings stay the same when she emerges from her cocoon and reveals herself to be a manifestation of his mother? [“More …]

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” by Michael Rottman
Diane and Sean, you’re the last team to arrive. I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve been eliminated from The Amazing Race. Unless, of course, you happened to bring me the hide of the fabled bronze mountain goat, so prized by the impotent men of the Kyrgyz? No? Then sorry. [More …]

Rejected Pitches for NBC’s Three Wishes: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Division
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Dear Three Wishes, I was just a normal kid last spring. School was almost done for the year, my baseball team was ranked second in the state, and I was working my first part-time job, as a dish pig, down at Kelsey’s. Then I got the news… [More …]

Memo to the Executives
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A Scientific Proposal to the Executive Program Directors of the ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC Networks
” by David Ng
I know an omen when I see one, and it needn’t even involve a two-headed goat. As a scientist with a background in cancer research, the revelation I’m referring to is a bit of homework I did on the average yearly amount of money spent on programming by your television networks (about $1.5 billion). [More …]

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R.I.P., K.V. Jr. Yankee Pot Roast rewinds to the fall of 2005, when the Y.P.R. Book Club skimmed and parodied the complete works of everybody's favorite crotchety old curmudgeon, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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