Fleshy fashion, politics get TV treatment

BUENOS AIRES — The reality genre is taking a bizarre twist in Argentina as broadcasters look for new themes for the cut-price programming.

Forget “Popstars” — Artear-Canal 13 is looking for men and women willing to bare nearly all in their hunt for a semi-nude model, and America TV is looking to set up a political candidate in a country suffering an economic meltdown.

Artear is spicing up Saturday nights with “Fantasias” (Fantasies), which bowed Aug. 24. It introduces eight contestants per episode with interviews from family and friends. Four will be filmed and photographed in their fantasy poses — semi-nude or nude — by top fashion photographers Gabriel Rocca and Andy Cherniavsky.

Judges and viewers will choose a winner each week, narrowing down the field to 12 finalists. These will pose for more shots as they compete for a portfolio of photos and for prizes, including a car, holiday and the chance to have a photo featured in a calendar and displayed at a museum.

Artear is developing the one-hour show with RCH, the photographers’ studio, and production outfit On Media.

“Fantasias” will air against general entertainment show “Hacete la America” on America and Saturday movie night on Telefe.

Third-ranked America is prepping “El Candidato del pueblo” (The People’s Candidate) to bow in September.

Political hopefuls will face off against each another in debates, and viewers will register phone votes for the winner, who will get funding for the 2003 congressional election.

The show taps contempt for current politicos — bungling, corrupt officials are blamed for pushing the country into economic crisis, with record poverty and unemployment plus soaring crime.

“This is the first time in the country’s history that ordinary people are thinking of rebuilding the nation from ground zero,” says Horacio Castelli, strategic planning consultant at Omnicom Group’s OMD Argentina, a media-buying firm. “They feel that if they don’t participate in politics, then a corrupt politician will win and create more problems for the country.”

America, controlled by sports media tycoon Carlos Avila, is planning to air the one-hour show in the Sunday 8 p.m. slot.

That will pit it against instant wedding gameshow “La gran propuesta” (Love Letters) on leading broadcaster Telefe, a unit of Telefonica’s Admira, and popular entertainment show “Sorpresa 2002″ (Surprise 2002) on No. 2 Artear.

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