'Megan' only the latest series to land on shelf
The murder of model Jasmine Fiore by ex-husband and one-time reality TV contestant Ryan Jenkins left a few more unintended casualties in its wake.TV execs aren’t known for their restraint, but VH1 webheads quickly realized there was no way they could air the two reality shows that featured Jenkins, who wound up killing himself Aug. 22. Both shows were canceled a day after his body was found in a British Columbia motel room. “Megan Wants a Millionaire” and “I Love Money 3″ now join the ever-increasing ranks of reality shows that are canned due to unforeseen circumstances — legal battles, death or, in some cases, a sudden bout of tact. Shelving a show means taking a financial hit, but that’s par for the course in network TV, where shows are routinely yanked and produced episodes of canceled shows never see the light of day (except occasionally on DVD sets or in “Gone Too Soon” retrospectives). But in the reality world, series are usually completely shot and in the can before ever reaching air. If a network suddenly decides not to run the show, it doesn’t just have one or two leftover episodes lying around, it has an entire series. That makes it easier to recoup some of those costs, by trying to sell the show to a third party — which is what NBC did with the notorious “Chains of Love,” which was eventually tossed to UPN — or at least internationally. Still, there are a handful of shows that came with too much baggage … or were just really bad. Those shows are still collecting dust, and the networks involved long ago opted to eat the costs and move on. ABC was forced to halt the scheduled 2005 launch of reality competish “Welcome to the Neighborhood” after an advocacy group said the show, which gave residents of a conservative Texas cul-de-sac a shot at picking their neighbors, violated fair housing laws. Now, four years later, “Neighborhood” — which was scheduled, marketed and promoted to TV critics before being hastily yanked — still hasn’t aired. It’s an open secret who won the show, as the new neighbors eventually moved in, but ABC still occasionally discusses dusting off the show. Over at Spike TV, the launch of reality series “Stuck on ODB” was delayed after the show’s star, Wu Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, died in late 2004. Show, which featured a contestant who was forced to stand close to the eccentric rapper at all times (via an ankle bracelet) for five days, hasn’t run yet. Fox, famous for regularly shelving both scripted and unscripted fare, most recently kept “When Women Rule the World” from making it to air in the U.S. The provocative show, announced for the 2007-08 TV season, centered on a group of strong-willed women who were given control of a group of subservient men on an island. “Women” was completely produced and given several airdates. It was pure Fox, yet the net got cold feet. The show’s failure to run likely contributed to the demise of producer Rocket Science Laboratories — the company behind some of Fox’s more salacious fare — which closed up shop this year. Fox also scrapped plans to air the special “Seriously Dude, I’m Gay,” after activist groups told Fox that, c’mon, something called “Seriously Dude, I’m Gay,” couldn’t be anything but offensive. Another show that was produced but never made it to air, CBS’ “Nightmare on Elm Street: Real Nightmares,” might have been shelved because, perhaps, it just wasn’t all that good. Then there were the shows that were announced with great fanfare, but then never made it to fruition. Most famously, CBS for years claimed that it was still developing “The Real Beverly Hillbillies” — a take on rural bumpkins in the big city that wound up raising the ire of politicians. First announced in 2003, “Real Beverly Hillbillies” didn’t even make it behind the cameras. Ditto Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s elaborate “The Runner,” which would have allowed viewers to participate in a nationwide scavenger hunt — but wound up leaving too many safety and security risks unanswered. At the start of the decade, Mark Burnett and NBC had announced “Destination: Mir,” a reality competish that would blast the winner up to the space station. One problem: Mir came crashing down to Earth in March 2001. Other similar space-themed programs, including one featuring N Sync member Lance Bass, also failed to achieve orbit. Last year, Burnett and 3 Ball Prods. began developing a dance competition series starring Chris Brown. In light of recent events, it’s probably safe to say anything featuring Brown might be a tough sell at the moment. Of course, shows that had only been in development can simply disappear. But what about series that were completely produced and ready to go, like “Welcome to the Neighborhood” and “When Women Rule the World”? There’s always the possibility that those shows might still pop up one day — but as years pass, that becomes less likely. “They become like pancakes that have fallen on the floor,” says one network exec. “You can’t do anything with them.” Some shows can always be sold to cable, such as Fox Reality, or internationally in order to recoup some costs. “When Women Rule,” for example, has actually aired in Finland. “But at some point you just write these shows off,” another exec says. “The longer something sits on the shelf, the less likely you’ll air it.” Whether “Megan” (which ran for a week before the Jenkins incident) or “Money” will ever be televised is doubtful. VH1 controls the shows for now, and would prefer that the whole Jenkins embarrassment just go away, so those tapes won’t be leaving the shelves anytime soon. Eventually, the rights will revert back to producer 51 Minds — but even then, the show might be a tough sell for the producers. That is, unless they want to go down the tacky road of exploiting Jenkins’ participation, or unless someone is desperate enough for the kind of looky-loo audience the shows might generate. That’s not unlike the fate of the 1994 NBC scripted action pilot “Frogmen,” which starred O.J. Simpson right before he was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson. Peacock execs often joked that they might air the long-forgotten “Frogmen” one day if they were ever hungry for a big ratings boost — but never did.
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