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Sci Fi planning 'The Running Man'-like 'Run for Money' reality series


By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 07/19/2007 

Sci Fi Channel announced it has ordered Run for Money, a new fugitive-style reality competition series that will follow several contestants as they attempt to earn cash and prizes while trying to avoid a group of "Hunters" who are trying to eliminate them from the game.  Run for Money will air as part of the network's 2007-2008 original programming schedule.

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Each episode of Run for Money will be filmed over the course of exactly 60 minutes and take place in different "landmark locations" in major cities across America.  

During the course of the each episode's competition, the contestants will be tasked with having to complete various tasks, however their efforts will be hindered by a group of "Hunters" that will increase in numbers as the game's clock continues to countdown.  As the game goes on, hovering helicopters will also eventually join the search, giving the Hunters another way to track each contestant's location.  When the hour ends, only one player will "survive" to win the episode's undisclosed cash prize.

Although its scale will certainly be smaller, Run for Money's format appears similar to that of The Runner, a never-produced 2001 ABC reality competition project from Hollywood stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.  The Runner's premise was to unleash a contestant on the streets of America and give them 13 weeks to avoid capture while traveling around the country to complete a series of tasks that would eventually win them a cash prize.  However in The Runner, home viewers were to have served as the competition's "Hunters," and if someone was able to "capture" the contestant, they'd receive a prize instead.

Despite being picked up and announced by ABC, The Runner -- which had conducted casting calls throughout Summer 2001 and had been scheduled to premiere in January 2002 -- was never produced due to post-September 11 security and safety concerns.  "Today's environment would not be conducive to this type of television event," then ABC Entertainment president Lloyd Braun said in an October 2001 statement announcing the network's decision to mothball the concept. 

Instead, Damon and Affleck's LivePlanet production company ended up creating Push, Nevada for ABC.   Billed as a "next-generation twist on reality television" when it eventually premiered in September 2002, Push, Nevada was a short-lived scripted mystery series with "interactive web elements" that included the awarding of a $1,045,000 cash prize to its viewer winner.  Although critically-acclaimed, Push, Nevada aired only seven episodes before being canceled due to poor ratings.

In January 2006, Daily Variety had reported that Braun -- at the time the chief of Yahoo!'s media group -- had been attempting to revive The Runner as a Yahoo! project that would also involve reality producer Mark Burnett (who also produced AOL's Fall 2006 Gold Rush project), however nothing ever came of the efforts and Braun left Yahoo! in December 2006.

Both Run for Money and The Runner also share similarities to Stephen King's 1982 science fiction novel "The Running Man," which was subsequently adapted into a 1987 film by the same name that starred current California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

However despite the similarities, the Sci Fi Channel is basing Run for Money's format on a Japanese pogram that aired as a series of late-night specials on Fuji Television in 2004 and 2006.  Run for Money is executive produced by Scott Messick and Mess Media for Buena Vista Productions and Fujisankei Communications International.

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