In the networks’ fervor to find new reality shows to put on the air, concepts are frequently “borrowed” from the UK airwaves. Imports like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars have become very popular here in the states and NBC execs are hoping that they’ll get lucky again. This summer it looks like we’ll be seeing a US version of another UK show — for the second time!
The UK version of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! began airing in 2002 and has aired for eight seasons thus far. In the series, a group of celebrities live in a distant jungle together and with none of the comforts of home. They compete in various challenges with the ultimate winner earning a big cash prize for their charity of choice.
In February 2003, ABC tried airing a version that was specifically made for the US. It somewhat resembles what a celebrity version of Survivor might look like. Contestants for this version include D-list celebrities like Melissa Rivers, Alana Stewart, Nikki Schieler Ziering, Robin Leach, Bruce Jenner, Downtown Julie Brown, Maria Conchita Alonso, Tyson Beckford, and “Stuttering” John Melendez. John Lehr hosted the episodes and Judd won the grand prize to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
ABC ran the series every night for 15 installments. Unlike Survivor, Celebrity was shot concurrent with its air dates. This allowed the viewing audience to vote contestants out each night, as well as decide who should take part in challenges. Ultimately, ABC wasn’t satisfied with the episodes’ ratings and execs decided to pull the plug after only one season.
As has been the case with the UK version, ABC’s Celebrity endured its share of criticism. Some viewers charged that the celebrities really weren’t roughing it in an Australian jungle and in fact were actually enjoying cushy surroundings. In addition, CBS brought a lawsuit against both versions of the show, claiming that it was much too similar to its Survivor. The lawsuit never went anywhere.
NBC has now negotiated with Granada America to adapt Celebrity for its own schedule. The UK version’s popularity has been on the rise, most recently featuring Americans Martina Navratilova and George Takei (Star Trek). In addition, ABC’s celebrity reality series, Dancing with the Stars, continues to be a ratings blockbuster.
The network has been having a tough time attracting viewers so NBC is ready to take a big risk by airing Celebrity several times a week during the month of June. NBC’s head of scheduling, Mitch Metcalf, said, “We’re taking a reality format that has worked incredibly well around the world and borrowing now only a great idea, but a scheduling philosophy that has worked for this show overseas and worked for Deal or No Deal and Who Wants to be Millionaire.”
Celebrity will kick off with a two-hour premiere on June 1st and run for a total of 15 installments. NBC is hoping viewers will tune in Monday through Thursdays for the first three weeks and then Monday through Wednesday for the conclusion. The participants have yet to be announced but will obviously play a large role in how many viewers will tune in to watch.
Will NBC be able to succeed where ABC failed?