Hard times take bite out of reality

<i>Variety</i> suggests new nonscripted fare

Movies and popcorn. Baseball and hot dogs. Kath & Kim.

Some things are just made for each other. And so it is this TV season, with a biz bleeding advertisers and the industries that long to blurb unable to get a handout until regime change in Washington.

But why suffer when a leap of imagination could bring innovative nonscripted fare tobenefit networks, studios and ailing advertisers? Consider these Variety suggestions:

So You Think You Can Dance — Detroit: Heads of the Big Three automakers try to justify the concepts behind their vehicles in a ballroom filled with Hummers and SUVs. Next-day competition show features the final two in a demolition derby, with UAW reps riding shotgun. Winner gets free gas for a year. Suggested sponsor: Exxon-Mobil.

Slumdog Millionaire, the Series: Equity capital investor Sam Zell descends into troubled neighborhoods with an open checkbook to help the needy. Winners get a pair of Cubs baseball tickets but must clean out their desks. Suggested sponsor: the Tribune Co.

Debt Swap: Two sets of families trade credit card bills run up by their significant others. CPAs comb through the wreckage looking for eccentric profligacy like frequent spa visits and tickets to “Delgo.” Suggested sponsor: American Express.

Extreme Makeover — Loan Extension: AIG execs reveal their worst subprime mistakes, with members of the studio aud chipping in to underwrite the most expensive failure. All others are shunted to the spinoff half-hour “Extreme Makeover: Home Invasion,” in which families with bad mortgages return home to a sobering reveal: interior decorating lessons in minimalism. Suggested sponsors: Circuit City and Linens ’n Things.

Iron, Chef!: Dislocated foodies at high-end eateries take a turn as domestics to the dwindling leisure class. Suggested sponsor: Merry Maids.

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