Proving that there is no idea so bizarre or silly that it can't be conceived of by more than one person...Yet another writing-related reality show appears to be in the offing: The Ultimate Author, which describes itself as "...an awesome television program packed with entertaining, engaging and interesting events" in which "contestants go toe-to-toe in a writing competition that tests their ability to develop attention-grabbing content."
The show, which has put out a casting call for June 16th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Dania Beach, Florida, will start out with eight contestants. Each week, they'll have two hours in which to research and write a chapter in a different genre, with the contestant scoring the fewest points being eliminated. Performance will be assessed by a panel of judges made up of "literary magazine publishers, veteran authors, journalists, book store representatives, and creative development managers from publishing houses." (Who they are is not revealed.) "The show climaxes in the last episode," says the website, "as the final three contestants battle it out." (Is it very lowbrow of me to hope that jello is involved?) The lucky winner will receive "a myriad" of prizes, including "the coveted prize of a book deal to write their own paperback."
What qualities will the folks at the casting call be looking for? According to the website, "Contestants...must be smart enough to spell well, creative enough to coordinate a themed book club gathering, savvy enough to handle an ambush interview, wise enough to develop an effective marketing plan, and talented enough to help design an eye-catching book cover." (Literate enough to write a coherent book? That's not mentioned, but the show's level of expectation may perhaps be gauged by this Writing Challenge.) Illustrating some of these skills, a video clip on the website's home page shows a trio of hopeful writers engaging in such vital authorial activities as arranging a dinner table, participating in a spelling bee, and reading short writing samples they've composed using genre, characters, and themes provided by the producer. Contestants must also agree to follow a few rules, including signing "a statement of morality" and refraining from profanity (though you'll be relieved to know that "ass" and "bitch" are fine).
The Ultimate Author is the brainchild of Lauren Spicer, owner of Von Enterprises International. Ms. Spicer is the "celebrated" author of the Spice Rack series of books, published by...Von Enterprises International. Any guesses as to where the "coveted prize of a book deal" will be coming from?
Ms. Spicer claims two Emmy awards and a long career in broadcast journalism and publicity. Will she actually be able to produce and complete the show? Maybe--but remember the not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper fate of Book Millionaire, a similarly-themed reality show that got 50 writers to submit audition videos and then went radio silent. There's also the, uh, problematic nature of the concept. Basically, it's boring. Unless you can follow them on bar crawls or spy on them while they're shooting up, writers are dull. Watching them pursue their craft is really dull. (Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Run hand through hair. Sigh. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Leave office, pace around, read newspaper. Return to office. Repeat.) You would need pots of money, plus much trimming of celebrity glitz and glamor, to distract the average TV viewer from the sheer ennui of it all. The above-mentioned video clip, which cries public access channel rather than major network, doesn't bode well for that.
Only Tony Cowell and his author reality show would seem to be in a position to provide the necessary American Idol gloss--though even he may be encountering glitches. There's word that the show has been pushed back, possibly to 2008.
Writers, you might want to reconsider that ticket to Florida. Unless you want a vacation, of course.