Ah, summer. Makes you think of beaches, boats, bikinis — and new reality shows meant to keep you inside and away from those activities.
Don't believe me? Just remember that back when they were surprise hits, "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars" originally started off as summer fare.
Of course, "I Want to Be a Hilton" — a 2005 flop of a show — also premiered at this time. Below, my personal predictions for "Idol"-like success and "Hilton"-esque failure:
The biggest hype seems to be surrounding "Pirate Master" (CBS), Mark Burnett's semi-"Survivor" spin-off.
While having people compete to be the best pillager seems a bit weird, I will accept the fact that something about Johnny Depp adopting a Keith Richards persona in those "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies has made the whole world go a bit pirate crazy, and that searching for hidden treasure seems to perfectly meld latent childhood fantasy with grown-up materialism.
"On the Lot" (FOX), a sort of "Project Greenlight" with Carrie Fisher, Garry Marshall and Brett Ratner, has the added advantage of being the first reality show to have the Steven Spielberg golden touch (he and the ubiquitous Burnett are teaming up as producers).
Rather than having one writer and one director make a movie that will inevitably be thoroughly ignored upon release, "On the Lot" allows its contestants to work on all aspects of production where they'll make shorts instead of feature-length projects. Which means that if they're terrible, you don't have to lose 90 minutes of your life that you'll never get back.
For those who can't get enough of Kevin Federline (all one or two of you), his pre-Britney girlfriend — and mother of two Federbabies — Shar Jackson will be joining other well-known ex-wives Marla Maples and Angie Everhart (who was married to the son of George Ashley Hamilton and engaged to Sylvester Stallone) for "The Ex-Wives Club" (ABC). The three — who seem more like poster children for questionable decision-making than self-help gurus — will be helping recent divorcees get their lives back together.
While I'm not sure anyone should be taking advice from them, viewers will certainly tune in to see if they're witnessing a train wreck or just undeniably watchable bad TV.
Returning summer shows include "Big Brother" (CBS), "American Inventor" (ABC), "So You Think You Can Dance" (FOX), "Hell's Kitchen" (FOX), "America's Got Talent" (NBC), "Last Comic Standing" (NBC), "Top Chef" (Bravo), "The Simple Life" (E!), "The Hills" (MTV), "The Surreal Life" (VH1) and "The Biggest Loser" (NBC).
Also joining the fray: shows covering everything from celebrity impersonators ("Next Best Thing" on ABC) to weight-loss for kids (Shaq's Big Challenge," on ABC) to the day-in, day-out shenanigans of Paula Abdul ("Hey Paula," on Bravo).
A group of people doing their best Christopher Walken as well as details about how the wackiest of "Idol"'s judging committee behaves in her free time?
I say forget filling the beach cooler and load up the TiVo instead.
Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.
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