- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

Reports that reality television had faded into oblivion after September 11 have been greatly exaggerated. The genre is back, in fact, with a vengeance.
The trials and tribulations of fighter pilots, aspiring actors, hopeful brides, clueless homesteaders, determined presidential candidates, would-be cosmonauts, parsimonious housemates and shameless centerfolds are among the dozens of offerings in development at broadcast and cable networks.
"These shows are not going to go gently into the night," said Syracuse University media professor Robert Thompson. "America's appetite for entertainment has returned, and reality TV can help satisfy it. I never bought into the idea that the terrorist attacks would do away with these things."
Plenty of people did. The cheeky productions took a beating from critics last fall who called them "cheaters and liars," "meaningless" or even "too real" for Americans who had no taste for pretend survivors and tempestous love interests. But time, apparently, has marched on.
"Critics once predicted the demise of the sit-coms as well. Never happened," said Mr. Thompson. "These little dramas are a natural for TV and new technology. They may falter, but they won't disappear."
Persistent producers have been busy.
Contestants for the fourth incarnation of CBS' "Survivor," will be announced Wednesday on "The Early Show." But wait. Hopefuls for "Survivor 5" have less than two weeks to submit applications, which inquire about body piercings, arrest records and culinary habits, among other things.
CBS also will debut "American Fighter Pilots" in late March, featuring the travails of U.S. Air Force F-15 pilot training in Florida, directed by Tony Scott of "Top Gun" fame.
It's seaplanes and ice cliffs for contestants on WB's "No Boundaries," which also debuts in March at the Arctic Circle and ends somewhere in North America a month later. PBS debuts "Frontier House" in April, pitting one American family against life as it was lived around 1880.
But touchy-feely has just as much cachet as risky extremes.
Fox has completed production on "I Want a Husband: Alaska," which brings sissy city women to the he-men of the Yukon, with matrimony as the final goal.
Producer Eric Schotz describes the series as "'National Geographic' meets 'Sex in the City,'" and insists, "This is not an evil show where you're starving people or holding out food, but finding a relationship that will last a lifetime. This is about romance, it's about love."
ABC is currently searching for "The Bachelor," an obliging hunk who will share his quest for a bride with the viewing audience.
HBO, meanwhile, is developing "Candidate 2012," a weekly series that follows a presidential hopeful on the road to the White House. Producers seek someone who is "curious, passionate, compelling, engaging and driven," and willing to put up with "this kind of journey."
The Bravo cable channel, in the meantime, is following struggling actors through Manhattan on something called "The IT Factor."
The dubious and quirky touch is still a mainstay, though.
UPN is flying several families to Fiji to compete in the jungle; the final prize is a $250,000 California beach house. Playboy magazine is underwriting "Who Wants to be a Playboy Playmate?" which editor Kevin Kuster said will "show the masses how the process works."
An independent company is producing "Minimum Wage," which challenges middle-class couples to live on little for a month, with a hefty cash prize for those who still have some pennies left at the end.
Maryland-based producer Mark Elenowitz's "Ancient Astronauts" may top them all, however. The series aspires to take five teams to the Pyramids, Stonehenge and other archeological sites, competing with "the same tools, material and methods used by their ancient predecessors."
The prize is a ride into space with Russian cosmonauts. Hopefuls, Mr. Elenowitz told the New York Post, "can apply for an application by sending an e-mail to [email protected]"

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