I recently got a short-term gig at a reality show production company. It’s been a fun little trip, because, while I’d worked in TV before, I’d never done pure reality production and wanted to see what it was like. Truth is, it’s probably not for me, but for the short term, it’s been super interesting. And despite having my first full-time, need-to-go-into-the-office-every-day gig in 9 months, I still spent most of my free time thinking about my generation and how growing up is weird. So, putting both of them together, I came up with a few ideas for reality shows about new adults/non-adults that I might like to watch, but no network might like to make. These aren’t shows about weird families who run a dark, dirty business, or formulaic looks at terrible wives or ex-wives or cretinous rural children. This is the real shit, the shit that you and me are living in, which is why they probably won’t be on TV anytime soon.
My Super Sweet 30th Birthday Party
The holy grail of reality development is finding an easy-to-recreate format, that will drive a narrative and keep viewers watching for the whole show. This show, apes the format from another reality show (another common practice in reality development), My Super Sweet Sixteen, but instead of showing obnoxious, rich teens’ birthdays, would depict young adults as they reached a different milestone.
The first act would introduce us to a character, upset about hitting an arbitrary aging milestone, depressed about where they are in their lives and just feeling generally old. Then, we follow them or one of their friends, as they plan to get all their soon-to-be-30-year-old’s friends together from around the country for a blowout party weekend in some exotic party locale. It could be anywhere from New Orleans to Vegas to Dubai to Aspen to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, as long as there’s booze, women and scenic landscapes for interstitial shots.
There’s a transition act, where the friends all meet up to travel to wherever they’re going to party, drinking in airport bars, eating at roadside diners, reminiscing about their twenties. And the payoff would be the party, which would ideally include drunken shenanigans, interactions with random strangers, gratuitous hook ups, food fights, fist fights, dancing injuries, D-list celebrity cameos and all kinds of puking. It would be the best kind of exploitative TV.
With characters nominated by friends or family, this show would be an intervention-style show for people who tweet or post a status update or take an Instagram of every fancy meal they eat. Mind you, this is for addicts who can’t go a meal without taking a well-composed, filter shot of every single dish. They will never be like the rest of us, who know how to moderate our impulses and only share pictures of meals on special occasions or when we’re on vacation.
For these foodspotters, hooked on over-sharing their eating habits, a Dr. Drew-style host would lead them through exercises to help them break the habit. The show would take them to eat extraordinarily embellished, bourgeois meals, i.e. jerk-spice infused pho, marinated duck tortas and the like, ALL with their phones turned off. (The horror!) Also, to help them break the impulse, they would be forced to look at pictures of thousands of other peoples meals, and acknowledge how obnoxious it is. And they would be taught strategies on how to avoid taking foodshots in the future, such as, when they find they’re enjoying a meal, just keeping on enjoying it, without their phones. Like a normal human being.
A basic reality challenge show, where two couples each with an empty, unfurnished apartment are pitted against each other. They are given a weekend to buy, assemble and arrange all the IKEA furniture they need to fully fill their apartment. Whichever couple fights, bickers and argues less during the process gets to keep the furniture/their relationship.
(I’d say they each should also be judged on who does a better job of designing their apartment, but it’s IKEA. All the apartments are going to look the same.)
America’s Next Top Mixologist
Picked from North America’s hippest, most elite mixology bars, cocktail lounges and bobo hotspots, a collection of charismatic, tattooed, bespoke, AUTHENTIC bartenders would all move in together and duke it out to create the best $13 dollar cocktail they can. Challenges would be to create original alcoholic concoctions using specific items (i.e. bacon, avocado, butter, etc…) or for specific audiences (i.e. create a cocktail poor people would like). The judges would be anchored by a couple celebrity bartenders (which, according to google, is apparently a thing), and rounded out by a rotating cast of hip celebrity judges/drinkers that would come through to test the concoctions (Jon Hamm, James Murphy, Lindsay Lohan, etc…).
At the end of the season, the winner gets a job as, um, well, a bartender, which they already were. But I don’t know what else they could win. I guess when you’re serious about mixology, the cocktail is its own reward. Possible spin-offs could include ‘America’s Next Top Homebrewer’ or ‘America’s Next Top Barista.”
The Real Girlfriends of Silverlake
A docu-soap style show following the lives of a group of young, tattooed, hip, former (read: “failed”) actresses who live with their boyfriends in and around Silverlake. Episodes would follow them as they meet for cappuccinos at Intelligentsia, shop at curated vintage clothing boutiques, and go to (or teach) yoga classes. Viewers get to watch as rivalry, jealousy and vapid-ness encroach on the girlfriends’ friendships, spoiling their relationships and even affecting their part-time careers as interior designers, food bloggers or still-life photographers. You haven’t seen a catfight until you’ve seen it break out between two bobo hipster girls in an immaculately designed raw food restaurant!
Spinoffs could include Real Girlfriends of the Mission, Bushwick, and Wicker Park.
Set in the San Francisco’s tremendously competitive apartment market, the city with the highest rent and lowest number of available apartments, where a room in a communal house can be upwards of $1500 a month and the average “roommate-wanted” posting on Craigslist will elicit 500 of responses. This would be an elimination style show, where applicants compete to get the privilege of renting the open room in a twentysomething communal apartment. Each episode would reveal just how hard it is to find a reasonably priced, comfortable place to live, near public transportation that isn’t in an economically, dangerous neighborhood with no good organic markets.
Each episode opens with an open house, where we meet the current roommates and see a tour of the house. We find out how small/overpriced the room is and what the rules are vis-à-vis cleaning duties, bathroom shelves, having people sleepover, playing loud music, etc. Then, a parade of desperate, anguished room-seekers would parade in, in their best “I’m cool but not TOO cool” outfits, with credit reports handy, quick to explain how they love keeping apartments clean and that while they DO have a significant other, their girlfriend/boyfriend won’t be at the apartment all the time, because, haha, they KNOW how annoying that is.
After a handful of competitions, both practical (i.e. putting dishes away, leaving notes on the fridge that aren’t too passive aggressive) and taste-based (“make a playlist for the party we’re having this weekend”), the new roommate is selected, winning a spot in the apartment, while other contestants are given a consolation prize of a map of Oakland and a canister of pepper spray.
That’s it for now. I would happily produce any of these shows, so if any network development folks are reading this, you know, holler. (I know they’re not reading this).
Henry Goldman is founder of yr an adult. He often wonders why his best creative ideas are for blog posts that very few people read.
Photo credits, all used/modified under cc license:
Birthday: Flickr user dpstyles
Foodie Intervention: Flickr user desideratum
Ikea: flickr user: ktsaltishok
Girlfriends: flickr user tjblackwell