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Di Bona probes interest in D.C. reality

Show on solon aides to be pitched later this year

WASHINGTON — They promise it won’t be hosted by Monica Lewinsky, but reps from Vin Di Bona Prods. headed up to Capitol Hill last week to test the waters for a reality show focused on the lives of twentysomething D.C. aides.

Show’s still in the development stages. Peter Schankowitz, prexy of development for Vin Di Bona, creator of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” wants to depict the real lives and culture of nine or so bright, energetic young staffers as they navigate the corridors of power and social life in the nation’s capital. He plans to pitch networks and cablers on the project later this year.

“I think the public is fascinated by Washington and what really goes on there,” Schankowitz said. “That’s why ‘West Wing’ is so popular. People find politics sexy.”

After Monica and all the intrigue surrounding the relationship between Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) and Chandra Levy, an intern who went missing and was later found dead, Washington is a little concerned about getting the Hollywood reality treatment.

Brownback skeptical

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a vocal critic of violence and sex in showbiz, expressed immediate skepticism about a D.C.-based reality show but relaxed a little after meeting Schankowitz and Vin Di Bona director of development Scott Jackson last week. The pair also met with Reps. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and their staffs.

The two creators swore off any kind of sexy dating elimination gimmicks or efforts to catch aides in compromising personal positions. It would not try to appeal to the “lowest common denominator,” Schankowitz pledged.

“There’s a glut of what we call manipulated reality,” he added. “I think the next trend is just organized storytelling — to put slices of life on TV and let the viewer experience them.”

Schankowitz came up with the concept after attending a fund-raiser for Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in Washington more than a year ago. There he met a half-dozen smart, ambitious young staffers who compared Capitol Hill to a huge university with all the social gossip and intellectual stimulation of a college campus. Because staffers’ salaries range in the low to mid-20s, they often share rent in group homes, another aspect that lends itself to the reality genre.

“These are young people who come from all walks of life and all economic backgrounds who are doing real, important work on the Hill,” Schankowitz said. “These are young people we haven’t seen on TV in a while.”

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