Here’s the reality: CBS has given fifth-season greenlights to nonfiction faves “The Amazing Race” and “Big Brother,” while NBC plans to feast on another season of “The Restaurant.”
The “Big Brother” pickup was an easy call, given the Eye’s ratings successes this summer with “Big Brother 4.” CBS had been slightly more on the fence with “Amazing Race,” although a pickup had gained momentum in recent weeks (Daily Variety, Sept. 15).
“They’re both great shows, and it’s all about building lasting franchises,” said CBS alternative series topper Ghen Maynard. ” ‘Big Brother’ was stellar this summer. It performed really well, and the storytelling was phenomenal. And ‘Amazing Race’ is the little jewel that we all love.”
The “Amazing Race” pickup comes soon after the round-the-world contest won the Emmy for outstanding reality/competition series. The show’s fourth edition, which aired this summer, averaged 8.4 million viewers.
Casting has already begun on “Amazing Race 5,” which will again focus on two-person couples (spouses, siblings, friends, etc.) competing around the world for a $1 million prize. Phil Keoghan hosts.
“Amazing Race” exec producer Bertram van Munster said production will begin in January on season five, which should be ready for a spring or summer airdate.
“We’re working on a new race route right now and plan to make several changes to keep the show fresh,” he said. “But the foundation of the race remains absolutely the same.”
Early order surprise
As for “Big Brother,” the season five pickup was announced just five days after the season finale of “Big Brother 4.” CBS has usually waited until February before giving the go-ahead for another summer run; the early order surprised exec producers Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner.
“Big Brother 4,” which followed another group of 12 strangers sequestered inside a house, averaged 8.8 million viewers this summer. Julie Chen hosts.
“Every summer it gets more popular,” Shapiro said. “We love this because not only do we have more time to get our production people in order, but it gives Allison more time to think up a new twist.”
Grodner came up with this summer’s “X-Factor” theme, in which players, unbeknownst to them, were reunited inside the house with ex-lovers.
“Certainly the pressure’s on to make (next summer’s twist) different and unique, so no one sees it coming,” Grodner said.
A la carte
Then there’s “The Restaurant,” which was expected to return for a second course after a strong performance this summer (Daily Variety, Aug. 21).
Exec producers Mark Burnett and Ben Silverman said they’re still determining whether season two will once again revolve around chef Rocco DiSpirito and his Rocco’s on 23rd eatery. Show may wind up focusing on a new chef — or even split time between Rocco’s and a new restaurant.
“Hundreds of other chefs and restaurant financiers have come to Ben and I,” Burnett said. “This show really proves that this kind of docusoap works. If you find the right charismatic characters, the audience will come back week after week.”
Barter deal to end
In one major change, NBC will now pay a traditional license fee to air the next edition of “The Restaurant” rather than continuing the existing barter arrangement the net had with MagnaGlobal.
“We said all along when we first did it: It was an experiment,” said NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker. “It helped both sides. As we went forward, we decided take control.”
Silverman said “Restaurant” sponsors such as American Express and Coors will get first crack at returning for another season.
“The show will now be more of a hybrid, consisting of a license fee with some product integration,” Silverman said. “But the integration will be less intrusive.”
“Amazing Race” comes from Bruckheimer TV and Touchstone; “Big Brother” from Endemol and Shapiro/Grodner; and “Restaurant” from Reveille and Burnett.