Several years ago, when I was still aspiring to work in the wild world of television, I came up with what I thought was an incredible idea for the ultimate TV show. I put my idea together and presented it, or “pitched” it, as it’s called in the industry, to a few TV networks.*
Well, no one bit. But–coincidentally (or not)–a few years after my idea was rejected, I saw a number of TV shows on the air that were based on my idea. Shows like “Survivor” (the idea itself) and “CSI Miami” (the locale–although you could argue that because Miami Vice was made here before my idea, I copied that show’s idea for a locale, but I won’t go there).*
Sounds to me as if I have grounds for a lawsuit… Any attorneys out there? Just kidding.*
Anyway, I thought I’d share a basic outline of my idea with you. So here it is…
PREMISE: 16 people compete against each other in a “war-of-attrition” type reality show. The contestants–called Survivors–compete in a variety of grueling challenges over the course of several weeks in the “wilds” of Miami. The show is to take place during Miami’s hottest months, the end of July going into August.
Initially, the contestants are arranged loosely into two “teams.” Contestants are eliminated as they lose a challenge. As contestants are eliminated, the teams are dissolved. The last person standing wins the grand prize (to be determined but it should be a cash prize, to allow for the option of splitting it if two Survivors are left).
Day One: The first challenge for the Survivors is a fairly easy one. For the purposes of this initial episode, the Survivors chosen must speak English only. Day One’s challenge is to drop them off in the middle of Little Haiti and have them ask for directions and figure out a way to their headquarters on South Beach. Last Survivor to make it to South Beach is eliminated.
Day Five: Survivors have been given a few days to settle in. Today comes their second serious challenge. The remaining 15 Survivors will be taken to Homestead and provided with mopeds. They must make it from the City of Homestead’s City Hall to the Aventura Mall in one hour—during rush hour. In theory, they must make it in one hour but in reality, only the last person to make it will be eliminated, as anyone who lives here knows the only way you can make it to Aventura from Homestead in one hour on a moped is if you take that moped with you on a helicopter (and by the way, any Survivors who get caught doing this will be eliminated automatically). Bonus Survivor points to anyone who actually uses turn signals and a helmet, and who makes it all the way to the destination without flipping off any of the “natives.”
Day Eight: “Exotic” challenge. Remaining Survivors will go to a small, greasy Latin restaurant in Little Havana where nobody speaks English (and the last health inspection took place when the employees mostly spoke English). Survivors will have to order (and eat) a minimum four-course meal WITHOUT pointing at pictures or use of a Spanish-language guidebook. Bonus Survivor points to anyone who successfully orders desert and/or does not get food poisoning.
Day Eleven: By now, the Survivors are getting into a routine and beginning to get a “handle” on the challenges. Which makes this the perfect time to shake things up a bit.
First, the Survivors will be lulled into a false sense of what is to come when they are told to dress up in formal clothing for a special celebratory luncheon. They will then be treated to a delicious meal of paella, sangria, and tres leches for dessert. The Survivors will be encouraged to eat and drink to their heart’s content.
Immediately following the luncheon–at about 1:30 or 2:00 PM–the Survivors will be told to get ready to run a marathon RIGHT NOW, dressed as they are. A full, 26-plus mile marathon–in their dress clothes, and in the full afternoon heat of a Miami summer. Those who refuse to go will be eliminated. The remainder will have to run the marathon and they will be videotaped from the moment they are told they have to do it until the moment they finish.
Anyone not finishing will be eliminated–however, there will be no time limit. Additionally, what the Survivors won’t be told is that the first person who starts to sweat–and this counts from the moment they are first told they have to run the marathon, not necessarily from their physical exertion–will also be eliminated. The Survivors will be told of this rule only AFTER they finish the marathon, and the eliminated “sweater” will be chosen from those who complete the marathon as–as stated before, anyone who does not complete the marathon will be eliminated for that reason so the “sweater” cannot be chosen from this group.
Day Sixteen: After the “Paella marathon,” there should only be a handful of Survivors left. Let’s assume five remain.
Today’s challenge will keep the Survivors out of the hot sun. In fact, we should call it “tonight’s” challenge.
Male Survivors will have to wear plenty of expensive jewelry, including Rolex watches, and carry huge amounts of cash for this challenge. Female Survivors will have to wear skimpy, revealing clothing.
The Survivors will be dropped off on the corner of NE 36th Street and Biscayne Boulevard at midnight on a Saturday night. They must walk to the corner of NE 163rd Street and Biscayne. There is no time limit and in fact, no one will be eliminated for making it to the destination last. The goals will be different for male and female Survivors.
Male Survivors must make it to the destination with ALL of their cash and jewelry, and their clothes must be intact. Females must make it without having been propositioned once (i.e. mistaken for a prostitute). Anyone failing to meet these conditions will be eliminated.
Day Twenty-Two: By now there should only be two Survivors left. They will be allowed to choose whether to split the prize, or continue competing until one winner is left.
In the event more competitions are needed, here is a list of suggested challenges:
-Street-corner panhandling or selling: Survivors will either panhandle or sell assorted items (such as flowers, bottled water, newspapers, or inflatable dolls) at busy street corners throughout Miami. The Survivor who makes the least amount of money by the end of the day will be eliminated.
-Highway scavenger hunt: Survivors will go out on I-95 or the Palmetto Expressway with a list of items to collect from the road (some sample items: washing machine, iron rod, mattress, two-by-four, old truck tire). The Survivor with the fewest items collected will be eliminated. Additionally, any Survivors who get hit by a car will be eliminated (NOTE FROM LEGAL: make sure all Survivors sign legal waiver before attempting this challenge).
-Die-hard sports fan: Survivors will have to attend a professional sporting event involving a Miami team with an awful record. The Survivors will have to pretend to be fans of the Miami team, and they should be very enthusiastic, no matter how much ridicule other attendees of the event heap on them. Least believable “fan” is eliminated. Alternative version of this event: Survivors will have to attend a Miami Dolphins home game while dressed from head to toe in NY Jets colors. Survivors will have to sit in an area of the stadium where no other Jets fans are present. Survivors will have to cheer loudly for the Jets and be obnoxious, no matter how badly the Jets are losing (in other words, act like a real Jets fan). The first Survivor to get either kicked out of Dolphin Stadium or beaten up by Dolphins fans is eliminated.
-“Viva Castro” challenge: Survivors will need to take a special Spanish class before attempting this challenge. Survivors are to call in to speak on a rabid anti-Castro Spanish-language radio show, to sing Castro’s praises. They must also give out their phone numbers and addresses. Anyone who survives this challenge will get to keep going on.
-Santeria challenge: Survivors will have to clean, cook and eat animals (such as pigeons, chickens, etc.) left over from Santeria rituals. Bonus points for Survivors who can get their meal blessed by a Santeria priest.
-“The Swim”: Survivors will have a choice in this challenge. They can choose to swim across a lagoon filled with either sharks or alligators. Survivors who, for obvious reasons, don’t make it across, will be eliminated. (NOTE FROM LEGAL: Survivors should sign special waivers prior to attempting this challenge).
-Flooded jalopy: Survivors will each be given a car that will–to put it mildly–be on its last legs. They will then have to drive it down a rain-flooded street. Survivors who don’t make it to the end of the street will be eliminated.
-FEMA challenge: Survivors will have to apply for FEMA benefits for hurricane damage to their homes, even though no hurricane has come near. Survivors who get the most money from the government while avoiding arrest and conviction for fraud will be allowed to keep going on.
* This being the April issue–and hence the APRIL FOOL’S issue–I thought I should let you know I have never actually “pitched” any TV show ideas to anyone, nor did I come up with the idea for “Survivor” before its producers did. It just sounded like a good premise for this month’s column!