Reality formats whet appetite on Croisette

CANNES — Despite lackluster fall starts to unscripted series like “The Mole,” “Love Cruise” and “The Amazing Race” Stateside, reality formats are still hot on the Cannes Croisette.

At least 50 distribs at Mipcom are peddling reality and gameshows, a sign that the genre has become a worldwide primetime TV staple in just four years. There are big guns like King World, Celador and Action Time and tiny boutiques such as Iskra and Easy Films.

If Europeans were the ones to get the transatlantic trade in formats started, Yank producers are catching up. Lions Gate is bringing four new formats, including “Outrageous!” and “One Against the World.” And Porchlight Entertainment has pacted with Thomas Horton Associates for joint distribution abroad of 300 hours of reality and docu programming. Granada’s inhouse reality unit Hothouse is whipping out 14 games and reality-based formats. There’s even a round-the-clock niche channel called Reality TV beaming across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Frothy shows

Reality mainstays like “Survivor” and “Big Brother” are giving way abroad to frothier, family-oriented programming: A number of projects and concepts focus on comedy, drama, music and celebrity participation.

Some sellers, responding to the post-Sept. 11 zeitgeist, are using words like “aspirational” to tout their formats. In “Change My Life” from Britain’s Granada TV, guests are inspired to do just that with the help of a specially dedicated team. In “Mother Knows Best,” from another British purveyor, Target, moms interfere, in a positive way, in the lives of their offspring.

Meanwhile, celebrity-driven shows include “The Road,” an original by L.A.-based Rive Gauche Intl. TV, which already has aired on Italy’s RAI. Show puts two celebrities who are polar opposites in a car on a wild six-hour journey. And Britain’s Action Time is pushing “Stupid Punts,” a satirical game format that marries the quick-witted banter of a celebrity show with the competition of a betting game.

Glamour and music are recurrent elements in Endemol’s “Star Academy,” a real-life soap opera that gives 12 people the chance to become a member of a six-piece boy/girl band. The Dutch-based heavyweight is also pushing an intriguing soccer-related concept called “The Football Club.”

Relationship-themed gameshows are plentiful — everything from Screentime’s “Single Girls” and Target’s “City Girl, Country Boy” to Granada’s “One Night Stand” and MTV Intl.’s “Lovers or Liars.”

Scripted elements are no longer taboo in the reality genre. The L.A.-based Gurin Co. is bringing “The Contract,” a hybrid of script and reality, while Australia’s Crackerjack is hawking “Real Life Adventure.” Playboy TV is hyping “7 Lives Exposed” as the first erotic reality series. It, too, relies in part on scripted material.

In another direction, contestants in “Oblivious,” from Britain’s Tiger Aspect, compete for a cash prize without knowing they are taking part in a gameshow. Finally, station buyers hungry for “out there” thrills can unearth the more radical concepts, such as Iskra’s “Extreme Situations” or Lions Gate’s “Eliminator.”

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