Fox has found a reality tentpole for its aggressive summer sked of original programming, ordering up eight weeks of an unscripted sudser that will give viewers the chance to become a part of the onscreen action.
Dubbed “Paradise Hotel,” the twice-weekly hourlong reality skein is a sort of witches’ brew of “Big Brother,” “Temptation Island” and Aaron Spelling’s “Melrose Place.”
Mentorn, part of the U.K.-based Television Corp., is producing the series in association with Stateside producer A. Smith & Co. Tom Gutteridge and Charles Thompson are exec producers.
Skein will air Mondays and Wednesdays at 9 starting June 16. With the previously announced “The Simple Life,” “American Juniors” and “Keen Eddie” already on the summer grids, and “Temptation Island 3” a possibility, Fox is poised to have its most varied and ambitious roster ever of original programming during the warm-weather months.
At first glance, “Paradise Hotel” seems pretty typical of relationship reality skeins, circa 2003.
A dozen singles, split equally between men and women, will be shacked up in what Fox calls “the most exclusive resort ever” — a sort of Club Med with cameras that will give the players a chance to become playas, hooking up as frequently as their hormones dictate. Various events and incentives cooked up by producers will give contestants a chance to get to know one another better, natch.
“It’s meant to be a singles’ paradise,” Fox reality guru Mike Darnell said. “The main goal for players will be to go on vacation, but they’ll also be there to meet someone.”
Monday edition of “Paradise” will unspool as a reality soap opera, with segments focusing on who’s flirting or fighting with whom. Both hidden and handheld cameras will capture what’s going on in and around the resort.
But skein will break down the fourth wall somewhat, by showing a host and studio audience reacting to the same footage viewers are watching at home. Goal is to duplicate the feeling viewers get when they watch reality shows with friends and family.
Each week, the hotel guests will turn on each other, a la “Survivor” or “Big Brother,” and vote off one of their own.
Aud players tapped
Real twist comes with the Wednesday edition of the show, which will feature a studio audience composed of “Paradise” viewers who’ve won a seat in the aud by calling a toll-free number. Members of that studio aud will then compete against one another — Fox won’t specify how — for a chance to replace the person previously booted out of “Paradise.”
Winning studio aud member will immediately be whisked away to “Paradise,” going from viewer to player in a matter of hours.
“People who watch reality shows are always saying how ‘I’d like to be in the house (or on an island) with those people on TV,’ ” Gutteridge said. “With this show, if you become a fan of the show, you can also become a part of the action.”
As a result of the twist, the number of singles on the show will stay at 12, with new “characters” coming in and out of the skein on a weekly basis, much like a sudser.
“It’s an organic reality show,” Gutteridge said. “It’ll change week by week as new people are introduced.”
Gutteridge said producers do have “an endgame in mind” but can’t reveal it now, since it might change the outcome of the show. Darnell left open the possibility that the skein would keep going indefinitely.
“The goal is to make it a continuing show, like a soap opera,” he said. “In addition to being sort of fun-and-sun summer programming, this gives us a way to do something that could be on for a long time.”
Mentorn quietly assembled a pilot presentation for “Paradise” earlier this year in the U.K. Format is close to being sold to a U.K. broadcaster, though Fox will gets its version on the air first.
Howard Davidson and Phil Roberts of Mentorn’s development team created the skein, which was packaged by WMA and Mark Itkin.
Skein is Mentorn’s first big primetime reality format in the U.S. Company produces “Robot Wars” for TNN and was behind the ABC spec “Challenge America.”