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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Reality Show Idea: America's Next Top Philosopher

I have a problem. I come up with million dollar ideas every day. Or at least a few times a week. I just don't have the capital to put them into action. For instance: Extra large tubes of Chapstick. Most of the cost of that junk is in the plastic tube. If you just made one a little bigger and charged twice the money for it, you'd surely make a profit because the cost of the retail SKU would go up more than the cost of the production. People love that shit. They're addicted. They'd snap up an "Economy Size" tube like Oprah would a baked ham.

So here's last night's million dollar idea: I was watching America's Next Top Model, and the thought seized me. They should do a reality show about grad students. When you really think about it, it's shocking that it hasn't been done. Here you have a population of twenty and thirty-somethings, who are either painfully socially maladroit or vain, egotistical assholes. They're poor as a rule, although there would be some privileged silver spoon types. There is usually intense competition for spots and for funding in any given grad school, making for adrenaline-packed conflicts. They're also usually emotionally disturbed drunkards, which lends itself to much "Girls Gone Wild" style hijinks as well as melancholy musical montages.

So what would the most entertaining grad school reality show be? In my opinion, America's Next Top Philosopher (Alternately... Project Philosophy, or Philosphers:The Biggest Losers).

See, Philosophy is one of those subjects that draws in people who are searching, yearning sorts. Academic drifters who are unsatisfied by other fields until the find the calling towards wisdom. Or inveterate BS artists who want to avoid real work by picking a field with no "easy answers." So you'd have a ripe population of people who would love to receive the prize of the show.

What prize? A $100,000 fellowship, a tenure track position at University X, and a book publishing contract.

You get 12 philosophy grads, board them all together in some frat house on some university campus, and have a 13 week show eliminating them through philosophy challenges, with a judging panel opf three eminent but also entertaining Philosophy personalities.

The challenges can be regarding the 12 great philosophical questions: beauty, causality, death, free will, God, justice, meaning of life, moral duty, the self, time, truth, and ultimate reality. The contestants are given their question to answer, and through the course of the episode, they research, screw around, debate, etc. until they formulate a response. At the end of the episode, they deliver a "defense" of their thesis to the panel of judges (probably a 30 minute defense, liberally edited down for TV viewing.)

You could also have a makeover episode, in which each student is decked out in the best academic finery and given a haircut/"What not to Wear" style advice session on presenting oneself for job interviews or going on dates.

Here's why I think it would work: I know for a fact that the reality show "Project Runway" has a huge following among intellectuals. How do I know this? Well, I work at the University of Chicago at the moment. To date, every single person I have talked to about the show either currently watches it or wishes they had cable so they could watch it. A show with the addictive elements of Reality TV (i.e. personality conflicts, young, attractive cast members) combined with some intellectual or at least pseudo-intellectual elements would probably be a big hit. It would be controversial of course, because the muckety-mucks of the higher education community would all pooh-pooh it, while others would praise its spreading of academic ideas to a more popular audience. What channel? Maybe Bravo, AMC, TLC or some other channel that has an audience that would be receptive. Fox or NBC might not be the best fits.

OK, execs, start emailing me! If you steal my idea, I'll sue. It's all here on my blog, copyright: me!

2 Comments:

Anonymous bronwyn said...

I would totally watch this, but then I'm also a complete nerd. I have two suggestions--an athletic component to one or two of the "big question" challenges. It could tie into the theme, like 'time' or 'free will.' It would add variety and could lead to some suprize victories if any of the contestants are closet athletes. Second, and while I'm generally opposed to such nonsense----perhaps the prize should include some sort of product endorsement. If this show were to succeed in making philosophy grad students into some sort of sexy, witty, Derrida-reading subculture, it stands to reason that a company (say Philosophy cosmetics or, liberal-wooing Subaru) would jump at the chance to feature the winner in some sublime TV spot. Look at the new Licoln commercials--they're all about aligning your vehicle choice with "values" like "dignity" or "vision." A car commercial focused on the Platonic ideal? Now that's subversive.

10:58 AM

 
Blogger matthewweflen said...

The First car is the Form of Car, unchanging and eternal.

The 2007 Buick Skylark is the Second Car. Vigorous, powerful V8 engine; graceful, precise handling.

The Third car is the 2007 Buick Skylark winning the Road and Track Magazine's award for Car of the Year.

The 2007 Buick Skylark - intelligibly closest to the ideal. Feel the Arete...

9:30 AM

 

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