NBC reality skein swings into action

Winners to star in a telepic tentatively titled 'Hit Me'

Look out, Vin Diesel.

Joel Silver has partnered with NBC in an attempt to find “The Next Action Star.”

The 10-episode reality series will follow producers as they hold a casting search to find potential male and female stars with “that indefinable ‘it’ factor.” The winners will star in a Silver-produced Peacock TV movie, tentatively titled “Hit Me.”

Gary Benz and Michael Branton created “Next Action Star,” which comes from NBC Studios, GRB Entertainment and Silver Pictures Television.

Silver will exec produce with GRB prexy Benz and Brass Ring Entertainment’s Rick Tellez and Cris Abrego; Silver Pictures TV senior VP Gregory Noveck will serve as co-exec producer along with Silver Pictures chief operating officer Steve Richards.

“Next Action Star” represents a slight change of pace for NBC’s reality department, which until now has mostly focused on stand-alone contests such as “Fear Factor.” Those close-ended shows perform well, particularly in repeats (unlike serialized reality shows), but lack the pop culture phenom quality of an “American Idol” or “Survivor.”

‘Silver brings respectability’

“Obviously we’ve had plenty of success with ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and ‘Fear Factor,’ so I like the action genre for reality,” said Jeff Gaspin, NBC’s exec VP of alternative series, longform and program strategy.

“They came in with this concept for a serialized action-adventure reality show, and it fit what I was looking for. Add Joel Silver to the mix, and it brings even more respectability to the action genre,” Gaspin said.

UTA, which reps GRB and Brass Ring, packaged the project. “Next Action Star” has been targeted for a likely summer 2003 launch.

The skein will kick off with a nationwide hunt for prospective stars, who will eventually be narrowed down to 12 finalists. The contestants will then move to Hollywood, where they’ll be given acting, training and combat lessons in addition to receiving “star treatment” (such as limos and fancy clothes).

Stunt competitions

Contestants will be eliminated at the end of each episode after competing in a series of stunt action sequences.

The final winners — one man, one woman — will star in the “Hit Me” telepic, which will also double as “The Next Action Star’s” series finale. Jeff Welch wrote “Hit Me,” Silver Pictures TV’s first primetime network made-for-TV movie.

“When you write the handbook for reality TV, this show has all the elements,” Gaspin said. “It has the vote- off, the contestant search, the close living quarters.”

A number of details are still being ironed out, such as whether the show will include an at-home voting element. Additional episodes may also go behind the scenes of the movie’s production. As part of the televised search, the producers also hope to showcase a major feature casting director and find a big name to helm the telepic.

Outside existing pact

Silver (“Die Hard,” “The Matrix”) and his Warner Bros.-based Silver Pictures recently sealed a deal with NBC to develop three action-oriented scripts for the network, at least one of which will be shot as a pilot. “The Next Action Star” is not related to that pact.

“Uncovering new talent is a fascinating process and we are excited to share this experience with the public,” Silver said.

Silver Pictures’ upcoming theatrical releases include “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The Matrix Revolutions” and “Cradle 2 the Grave.” Brass Ring’s credits include MTV’s “Fear” and FX’s “The Hitchhiker Chronicles,” as well as the WB’s upcoming “Surreal World.”

GRB, which will distribute the show format and film internationally, produces 75 hours of programming annually for U.S. and international outlets.

“For anyone dreaming of a life in action movies, this is the ultimate prize,” Benz said. “Joel Silver was instrumental in the careers of such action stars as Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis. For our contestants, starring in a Silver Pictures film is better than a million-dollar prize.”

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