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Procreation may become a new reality show reward


By Wade Paulsen, 07/28/2004 

Will the next craze in reality TV be driven by the "need to breed"? Three new reality shows proposed in Europe and Asia indicate that it may be.

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Endemol, the Anglo-Dutch reality-TV powerhouse behind such shows as Big Brother and Fear Factor, is negotiating with German, British and American TV stations regarding two new shows: Sperm Race and Make Me a Mum, according to the Dutch newspaper de Telegraaf. Meanwhile, a Singapore promoter is pushing a new show entitled Dr. Love's Super Baby-Making Show.

Endemol's Sperm Race, intended for German audiences, will evaluate the "quality" of sperm from several men, with the donor of the winning sperm receiving a sports car. Whether the sperm will be "racing" toward an unfertilized ovum was not revealed.

However, Make Me a Mum, the show being pitched to British and American networks, features a "first prize" for the winning man (or men) of artificial insemination of several women (which may even be televised live). In its pitch, Endemol promotes the show as a battle between normal physical attraction and science and biology.

Actual details of the show will not be finalized until (or if) the concept is sold, but an Endemol spokesperson was quick to note that the show is not in violation of any ethical and legal guidelines at this time. Questions about legal paternity and support obligations would depend upon the eventual format. Endemol has not started recruiting would-be daddies and mommies.

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, the Singapore show is being pushed by the island city-state's self-proclaimed sex guru, Wei Siang Wu, who has been in serious negotiations with Singapore's state-run TV network MediaCorp. The format would include nine foreign couples and a Singaporean couple trying to conceive. First prize (US$100,000) will be awarded to the first couple to test positive using a pregnancy test kit. And, of course, all of the "successful" couples will end up with a baby.

Singapore is notorious for its censorship, and even Wei admits that there probably won't be "anything pornographic" on Dr. Love's Super Baby-Making Show. However, the show would fit in with the Singaporean government's recent push to boost the country's sagging birthrate, which hit its lowest level since 1965 last year.

In addition to this possible reality show, which would focus on the couples, not their sex lives, Singapore has created a state-sponsored dating agency (!) and offered new parents tax breaks, cash bonuses and state-subsidized child care. Other proposals under consideration, which may be adopted as early as next month, include a six-month paid maternity leave for new mothers and state-subsidized infant care to cover the "bridge" between the end of maternity leave and the beginning of child care.

We admit to having a hard time envisioning the type of people who would want to "compete" on Make Me a Mum (or Mom for U.S. audiences). The potential parents would have to be people who wouldn't mind being linked for the rest of their lifetimes to a stranger of the opposite sex. Of course, we note that many married people feel like they're wed to a stranger after having children ... but we think it would be even harder with an actual stranger. We also admit to a certain curiousity about how the mothers will explain the circumstances surrounding their impregnation to their future children.

It is not clear how a show like Make Me a Mom would be received by U.S. lawmakers and regulators, considering that a former Vice President of the U.S. publicly criticized a fictional TV show that had an unwed mother as the central character. However, times have changed in the U.S. since then.

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