If you’ve wondered why this blog appears to have gone quiet in the last week, it’s because I’m travelling on a trip that has taken me from the White House to Miami’s Winter Electronic Music Conference to West Point. Meanwhile, nothing much seems to have happened in the Burning Man world during this time. That may be about to change, with a rival civilization springing up to challenge Burning Man’s supremacy as a temporary city.
Fox TV has begun casting for a new reality show, called Utopia. The show is being produced by Dutch TV maestro John de Mol, who has won 25 Emmy awards for his contribution to the medium. He created the Big Brother show where people live together in a house with cameras on them 24/7. There they perform all manner of bizarre antics and entertainment for the home viewers, trying to avoid being voted out. What kind of antics? Well, the show’s most famous and controversial moment in Australia was a “teabagging incident”.
If you think you have what it takes for reality TV, then you might enjoy dedicating a year of your life to this new show, Utopia. It has debuted on Dutch TV already – so strongly that it triggered a bidding war amongst American networks looking for “the next big thing”.
The debut exceeded expectations, ranking as SBS 6′s highest-rated nonscripted premiere in six years. It won its time slot and pulled a 25.2% share in adults 18-49, improving the network’s market share in the time period by 500%, and drew almost 1.6 million overall viewers compared to SBS’ average viewership in the slot of 300,000…and nearly 100,000 people downloaded the app after the first episode
John de Mol also created Deal Or No Deal, Fear Factor, and The Voice – but he says “this is the purest form of reality that I have ever produced in my career”. The Hollywood Reporter called it “the most ambitious social experiment on television”
The premise of the show is “start your own civilization”, and see what you can achieve in a year. The location of where in the United States this will be remains a secret; it is unlikely to be the Black Rock Desert. Still, radical Burner skills of self-expression, self-reliance, participation, communal effort, civic responsibility, and immediacy could all be useful in this new civilization. Some creativity would be required to demonstrate how a society could be built entirely from Gifting: surely someone would have to have access to more resources than others, in order to have more gifts to distribute over the course of an entire year. Decommodification also seems like a challenge, when you are a wannabe star in a mainstream reality TV show broadcast around the world. Something tells me Fox will find some sponsors for this. I find it hard to believe how a TV production crew on a set they construct from nothing over a year is going to “Leave No Trace”. Still, Burners are nothing if not ingenious, so this could be a fantastic opportunity for The Burning Man Project to test how their principles work away from a rocket testing site in the Wild West – perhaps a useful exercise before they start their own brand-licensed colonies.
Gretchen Miller is doing the casting, and she says they have already received applications from some Burners. You can contact her here.
UTOPIA is a bold new unscripted series that moves 15 everyday Americans to an isolated, undeveloped location – for an entire year – and challenges them to create their own civilization.
With cameras following the pioneers 24/7, viewers can watch their society unfold, both weekly on FOX and also online. As they observe the inhabitants living together, and building their new existence, viewers themselves will have the chance to become a valuable and powerful asset to the community, and ultimately to question whether Utopia remains an elusive but alluring fantasy, or whether the pioneers have truly realized their dream
We are looking for those strong individuals who will create this new world on live television to see if they have what it takes to work together and create a new society from scratch.
We need people from all walks of life and skill sets to contribute to this new community being founded. I am familiar with Burning Man and have attended in the past. Attendees have such a great sense of community and ideals which I think will be a great asset on the show. We are looking for artists, tradespeople, activists, contractors, doctors. lawyers,inventors, chefs, firefighters etc.
Please check out the show’s website at http://www.fox.com/utopia/. For anyone interested in applying they can go to http://www.utopiatv.com and fill out the questionnaire or contact me directly. The show’s trailer can be found here: http://youtu.be/xfnaDbmFpP4.
John de Mol says:
“Utopia is a positive and constructive program that gives people the opportunity, if you can start all over again, start from scratch and create laws and make decisions, will you be able to build a society that is better than the one we have; will it be chaos or happiness…Big Brotheris a competition among 12 people who don’t have the worry about money, their fridge is always full, it’s a totally different setup.” He also noted that the cast members on Utopia, which requires a lot of skills, tend to be more upscale
Pro tip for budding social engineers: wear a Stetson.