Bonfire of vanities for reality skein

Alphabet strips Granada format that starves celebs

ABC will spend 15 consecutive nights this midseason giving famous names who are used to the pampered life a dose of harsh reality.

The Alphabet web has picked up a domestic version of the hit British reality entry “I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!” Granada, which created the U.K. version for ITV, will deliver 15 one-hour episodes for the net.

“I’m a Celebrity” will take eight celebs — entertainers, sports stars, newsmakers — and drop them in a remote location, where they’ll only be given rations of rice and water a la “Survivor.”

Show will also boast an interactive element a la “American Idol.” Viewers will vote on which celebrity each night must take part in a physical challenge to win food for the group; lowest-rated members will be kicked out. The contestants will ultimately play for a charity of their choice.

Because of the immediate voting, action will take place and be edited into a cohesive show in time for air the next day.

The decision to strip the show is reminiscent of the initial premiere of another British import, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which ABC first aired as a 14-day special in 1999.

“It is truly event programming, stripped across 15 nights and with viewers having a say in the story,” said ABC alternative series and specials senior VP Andrea Wong. “You’re seeing someone ripped from the headlines literally competing for their dinner.”

Wong said Granada managed to pull off the logistical feat in the U.K., where the show aired to strong ratings earlier this month.

In that edition, folks like psychic Uri Geller, socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, actor Darren Day and Christine Hamilton (wife of former member of Parliament Neil Hamilton) were stuck in the Australia jungle.

“Because Granada already did it once, there’s already a big production infrastructure set up,” Wong said.

For the U.S. version, Wong said the producers will hunt for a broad mix of celebs and convince them to do it for the good of their charity.

Wong said “I’m a Celebrity” could be ready as soon as February sweeps.

William Morris brought the format to the U.S., along with Granada international formats director Paul Jackson.

Granada and ABC will scout for an exec producer to run the show.

Nets have picked up a rush of celebrity-fueled reality series and specials in recent months, including the WB’s “Surreal World,” ) plus Fox’s “Celebrity Boot Camp” and its “Celebrity Daredevils” CBS, meanwhile, continues to mull a celeb “Big Brother” (Daily Variety, Sept. 16).

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