- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

ON MEDIA

The ratings are uneven, plots thin, morality questionable and the sizzle just lukewarm, but still they keep coming … and coming.

Reality TV shows, that is, which have mutated into a very odd lot these days.

Programs either planned or in production include an "extreme challenge competition" for dogs, a dating show set inside a Hollywood limousine, a dating show on a cruise ship, a game show for admitted kleptomaniacs, an expose on the lives of veterinary students and a competition among rock bands as they travel from one local dive to the next.

"We're gonna drink, we're gonna party, we're gonna meet chicks, and if you don't want to do that, then why are you in a band?" asks Cory Kreig, one of the young contenders on cable channel VH1's new "Bands on the Run" show.

And while viewers struggle to keep the players straight on "Survivor II," CBS is already seeking contestants for "Survivor III" and "Survivor IV," which will be shot in late summer in West Africa and South America.

Contestant applications (www.cbs.com) advise aspirants that they "cannot run for political office" while the show is on the air, and also ask, "What would you NOT do for $1 million?"

The voyeuristic "Survivor" series which began as a sleeper hit in August has spawned yet another appeal to America's more prurient interests. The show is now on the roster at Intertops.com, the Internet's largest sports betting Web site, which posts weekly odds over who will get tossed from the "tribe" next.

Soon, however, America will get all crime, all the time.

The Crime Channel is on the loose or will be in the fall, anyway. The latest reality entry wades into the lives of cops, criminals, victims, lawyers, detectives and various and sundry social activists 24 hours a day.

The new channel "will be the No. 1 destination for all that is crime," noted Patrick Vien of USA Networks.

Programming will include "Police Beat," a series hosted by a veteran police detective, and "Crime Scene," a talk show featuring law enforcement officers, crime victims, convicted criminals and defense lawyers.

The channel's Web site is up and running, boasting "Jail Cam," a live camera fixed on four areas of the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix. "Instance of violence or sexual behavior by detainees during the booking process may occur," the Web site warns.

The site also includes a live police radio scanner, travelers' warnings, crime statistics, lists of local sex offenders and an on-line retail store that includes official "Crime" underwear.

The combination of the cable channel and Web site is a "breakthrough crime television product," said John Langley, who developed the site and created "Cops," now in its 12th season on Fox.

USA Networks also enlisted "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett to craft "Eco-Challenge," a five-hour endurance miniseries that started last night.

There is danger, dumb adventures, leeches, foot injuries and one punctured lung along with 79 competing teams with names like "Fairydown Fleet Cookie Time" and "Team Playboy Extreme," which includes three centerfold models and a married man.

The team does not do well.

But that is not the point, noted the producer, Mr. Burnett. "They have a lot of heart," he said.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at 202/636-3085 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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