Fox Family Channel entered the virtual world last month with the prime-time broadcast launch of Paranoia, a first-of-its-kind family-targeted interactive game show. Airing from a ‘virtual’ studio built in the L.A.-based Sunset-Gower Studios, the hour-long trivia quiz show pits in-studio contestants against home audience participants via a live broadcast bluescreen. Additional contestants will join the game through an on-line live Webcast.
The program joins old and new broadcast technology in a possibly volatile partnership between the family broadcaster, a Web developer, a Web portal and a technology platform. BUZZTIME.com, a division of NTN Communications, will provide the Internet infrastructure for the show, having produced the live multiplayer game for the Web, while Excite@Home will act as the on-line portal, posting the game show on its Web site at www.paranoia.excite.com. The virtual studio technology, accomplished by using a real-time bluescreen technique, is provided by New York-based RT-SET (Real Time Synthesized Technology).
The impetus for the project came from the Fox Family’s search for edgier product. But as Eytan Keller, executive VP of reality programming and specials at Fox Family Channel, admits: ‘Most programming that has edge also has sexual content or violence that we cannot entertain on our channel.’ This, combined with hearing too much of what Keller describes as ‘mere lip service for interactivity and connectivity’ in the broadcast community led Fox Family to develop the multiplatform interactive show.
The program continues a three-and-a-half-year relationship between Keller and RT-SET. The technology company provided virtual sets for Keller’s 1996 Emmy award-winning CBS Saturday morning series Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House, which Keller created and executive produced in partnership with Robert Zemekis, Joel Silver and Richard Donner.
Launched on the Fox Family Channel on April 14, Paranoia will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at 7 p.m. for four consecutive weekends. The broadcaster has yet to confirm its plans for licensed and merchandised products.
This may be the first show of its kind for Fox Family, but it won’t be its last. Also aimed at a prime-time family audience is Fox’s July 2000 launch of Liquid Soap, a co-production with Jason Alexander’s AngelArk Productions. Half scripted and half improv, the comedy, which will likely be half-hour in length, is a spoof on soap operas in which input from Internet participants will steer the actions of cast members. Make me weep, home users.