Troubled teens have become a new target for ABC’s makeover madness.
Having hit big with shows dedicated to transforming everything from houses to spouses, the Alphabet has quietly started production on six hourlong episodes of “Brat Camp,” which brings nine problem adolescents to the Utah wilderness for at least 30 days in an attempt to turn their lives around.
Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner (“Big Brother,” “Teen Files”) are exec producing the show, based on the hit Blighty format of the same name from producer Twenty Twenty.
“This show will feel more like a documentary than most reality shows,” said ABC exec VP of alternative Andrea Wong, who first got wind of the format last spring. “It won’t feel as fabricated.”
ABC skein has been in production since November, though the net had refused to confirm that fact until just recently, perhaps fearing a competitor might try to clone it.
Interestingly, however, Alphabet sibling ABC Family just began airing the U.K. version of “Brat Camp,” which features Brit teens in an American wilderness camp. ABC Family is airing its four-episode run of “Brat Camp” on Monday nights.
Wong said she and ABC Family chief Paul Lee have been “talking about ways to work together” in recent months, and when ABC snatched up “Brat Camp,” Lee had the idea to air the original on his cabler. Intent is to “warm up the time period so there’s an even bigger appetite for the U.S. version,” she said.
Wong said Shapiro’s experience producing 1979’s “Scared Straight,” as well as CAA-repped Shapiro/Grodner Prods. skeins like MTV’s “Flipped” and “Teen Files,” made the producers the right choice for “Brat Camp.”
Filming of the U.S. “Brat Camp” has been taking place at SageWalk, a “wilderness therapy” camp in Utah. The nine participants are between 14 and 19 years old, and while they’re not delinquents, “virtually all of them are doing illegal things involving drugs and alcohol,” Grodner said.
And while the producers did participate in casting the show, Shapiro said the usual rules of reality casting didn’t apply.
“This therapy works very effectively with only a certain kind of kid,” he said. “We didn’t just pick any kid” who might be camera-friendly, he said.
Grodner also stressed that SageWalk isn’t a boot camp for kids. “This is not about yelling or screaming at kids. It’s not a military camp,” she said. “It’s about taking kids out of their comfort zone, getting them back to basics and helping them learn how to face their issues.”
Shapiro said “Brat Camp” is a marked departure from many current unscripted skeins.
“Most reality shows don’t have a lot of socially redeeming qualities,” he said. “This does, yet it’s every bit as dramatic (as other shows).”