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ABC inks British hit 'Supernanny' ... and Fox greenlights 'Nanny 911' clone


By Wade Paulsen, 09/02/2004 

The "Great Reality-TV Robbery of 2004" at Fox continues unabated.

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After a fierce bidding war between ABC and Fox, ABC won the rights to broadcast an American version of the hit British series Supernanny. The show features "no-nonsense nanny" Jo Frost, a 15-year child care veteran, observing a family and offering solutions for dealing with its unruly, badly-behaved children ... and then focuses on whether the family can stick to the new rules for behavior and conduct even after Jo Frost has moved on.

ABC has signed on for an eight-episode run for the show, which will import both Jo Frost and her child-care methods to the States. According to Daily Variety, the recent three-episode run of Supernanny on the U.K. Channel 4 drew 30% of the audience for its finale, leading to an order for five more U.K. episodes as well.

Nick Powell, the creator and executive producer of both the U.K. and U.S. versions for Ricochet, Ltd., stated that the key to success for Supernanny was casting Jo Frost. "She's no-nonsense, she's tough-talking, but she's also got a tremendous empathy for people," said Powell. "She won't stop until those kids are behaving better."

The family problems that Ms. Frost faces can range from disciplinary to sloppiness or anything in between, and solutions will require the involvement of both the children and the parents. The "payoff" of the show is the return of the camera crew a few weeks after Ms. Frost leaves, to see if the changes that she introduced have taken root or if the family has returned to its freewheeling, dysfunctional ways from before her visit.

As has become standard in 2004, Fox's alternative programming head Mike Darnell reacted to his bidding loss by immediately launching a clone of Supernanny. Fox's show, entitled Nanny 911, will be produced by the U.K.'s Granada Television (producers of the Survivor clone I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!).

In the Fox version, a team of nannies will send out one member to help a struggling family each week, and the other nannies will then evaluate her efforts and problem-solving skills. Darnell told Daily Variety that "[i]t's a sort of Justice League of nannies."

The race to reach the airwaves first between ABC's original and Fox's clone -- a race Fox won with regard to its Trading Spouses copycat of ABC's Wife Swap and is about to win with regard to its The Next Great Champ copycat of NBC's The Contender -- has begun in earnest. ABC alternative programming head Andrea Wong stated that production on Supernanny would begin "immediately," while Fox has begun looking for both nannies and families for Nanny 911.

As both the Fox copycats and the original series that Fox ripped off reach the airwaves, we'll finally learn the answer to the old question of "timing versus execution." Is reality television success is a result of being first to air with a concept (see, for example, Joe Millionaire) or rather delivering a superior product? For now, no one knows the answer ... and so both ABC and Fox are racing to be the first to expose America to the high-tech version of "Nannycam." Stay tuned for the results.

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