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June 16, 2005
White House Hopes New TV Program will Show Gitmo 'Reality'
The White House has reportedly approached top reality TV producers including Mark Burnett about a new reality show to be set at the Cuban detention facility known as 'Gitmo.' The new show, which the Bush Administration hopes will shine a more positive light on the controversial prison, will feature a dozen American contestants, each of whom must try to hold onto a 'secret' for an unspecified length of time.
New show to go behind the chain-link fences
By Russell D'Arby
HOLLYWOOD, CA—The most transparent detention facility in the history of warfare is about to get a whole lot more transparent. Welcome to Gitmo, home to 520 enemy combatants and, if the White House gets its way, a new reality show.
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The White House has reportedly approached a number of top reality TV producers with an idea for a reality show to be set behind the chain-link fences of the detention facility. While there's no word yet on which producer will get the job—or when shooting for the likely break-out hit could begin—sources close to the discussions say that top candidates to work on the show include Mark Burnett, of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" fame, Jonathan Murray, the brains behind MTV's "The Real World," and Matt Kunitz, producer of "Fear Factor."
An eye on critics—and the coveted 18-34 demographic
The appeal of such an idea to the White House is obvious. Hours of candid TV footage in primetime would allow the Bush Administration to convince viewers once and for all that Gitmo is a four-star facility, complete with private rooms, tasty meals and plenty of individual attention.
"The contestants are certainly going to be eating better than they do on Survivor or Fear Factor," said a spokesperson for NBC who asked to remain anonymous until an agreement with the White House is formally announced. "Which would you rather have, bugs and rotten fish or lemon chicken with rice pilaf?"
Can you keep a secret?
While details of the show remain to be worked out, sources say that the concept is a relatively simple one: roughly a dozen contestants, called "guests," will be selected to spend an unspecified time enjoying Cuba's tropical climate. But there's a twist. The contestants would come to Gitmo in possession of a secret, for example, their mother's maiden name, their birthday or the name of the city in which they were born.
Producers will then set up challenges in an effort to get contestants to divulge their secrets. For example, contestants might participate in a challenge to see who can remain awake longest, who does the best impersonation of a barking dog, or who is willing to have their head shaved ala Joyce Agu on yet another reality TV show: CBS' "The Amazing Race."
The contestant who is able to hold on to his or her secret the longest will be proclaimed the winner when the show finally ends.
Length of show still undetermined
Sources close to the negotiations say that "Gitmo" will differ from other primetime reality shows in at least one important capacity: its length. While most reality shows are shot in advance and unfold in primetime over thirteen or so episodes, "Gitmo" will more likely resemble a network drama that remains on television indefinitely—or until the viewing audience loses interest.
"Law and Order is in its 15th season," points out the NBC source. "I don't see any reason why the guests couldn't stay on 'Gitmo' for years. Just because it's never been tried before doesn't mean it can't be done."
Auditions for "Gitmo" are expected to be held in cities across the country this fall. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and be prepared to record a 90-second application video.
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