LOS ANGELES — America could not have cared less about the low-rated Fox special “Who’s Your Daddy?” But there might be more reality TV high jinks in store for Mommy.
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Just when it seemed that having an adopted woman guess the identity of her biological father marked a new low for reality programs, another show in the works could make “Daddy” seem as tame as “Father Knows Best.”
True Entertainment and Brighter Pictures, production companies owned by international reality giant Endemol (“Big Brother”) in New York and London, respectively, are co-developing a reality series that would pit a group of male contestants against each other for the honor of serving as a sperm donor to a woman willing to be impregnated.
The twist — there’s always a twist in reality land — is that the woman must choose between two finalists. One will be determined on the basis of biological compatibility, the other on personal grounds. Either science or love will prevail.
Talk about planting the seeds of discontent. When Endemol tried shopping the concept — dubbed “Make Me a Mum” — to European broadcasters, it went over about as well as mad cow disease. Pro-life groups issued condemnations. A Dutch parliamentarian tried to launch a government inquiry. Ethicist Josephine Quintavalle put it all in perspective for U.K. trade newspaper Broadcast: “The end result of this titillation of the public is a child.”
But just because there are no takers in Europe yet hasn’t discouraged Endemol from shipping “Mum” stateside.
“We took in the response in Europe, and we felt strongly about the idea and felt that it wasn’t the kind of lascivious idea that people were portraying it as,” says Steven Weinstock, co-founder and president of True. “It is our intention in the new year to go back and re-ignite the pitch and revisit some of the (U.S.) networks we received a positive response from.”
Weinstock won’t say which networks are biting, if any, but he admits that a broadcast outlet is a long shot. One only can imagine the kind of blackout that network affiliates likely would trigger given the mass pre-emption of ABC’s Veterans Day broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan.”
Which begs the question: If Euro broadcasters balked at “Mum,” how would the show fare in a country where the outcome of the presidential election had some speculating about the overturning of Roe v. Wade? Weinstock argues that it is precisely the topicality of “Mum” that makes it not only viable but also socially conscious. “We think this show is tapping into something empowering choice in women’s lives,” he says.
To make “Mum” more palatable for American networks, Endemol has opted not to use microscopic cameras that would enable viewers to actually see the egg get fertilized, according to Weinstock.
My, what restraint. Just imagine how the technology that once made the puck glow during hockey game broadcasts could be utilized.
Insemination offers a relevant metaphor here: Odds are good that at least one racy format will penetrate the global market from the fertile ground of reality television. “Daddy” surely won’t be the last we see of these morally dubious program premises.
“Mum” isn’t even the only virility-minded program gestating at Endemol; the company reportedly has talked to German broadcasters about a televised contest to find the most potent man, called “Sperm Race.”
Better hope these formats never make it to the United States, which is awash in eerily similar unscripted shows. Producing a “Mum” clone could take the reality-copycat controversy to a whole new level.
Copyright 2012 The Hollywood Reporter