Eulogy for an Octagon
"Our greatest competition is with ourselves."
-Mark Dacascos, as "The Chairman", "Iron Chef America".
By the time you read these words, the final
episode (at least for now) of "Solitary" would have aired on Fox Reality
"Solitary", a game in which nine Americans were
each separated from all time and space - and each other - in an isolation pod for an endurance test
against cyberintelligence VAL for $50,000, was a fixture of the Fox Reality
schedule since 2006, when it was first commissioned by the network to run
Saturday nights. I bet no one would have thought that nine people competing in
what was essentially a high-stakes game of chicken would last five episodes let
alone five years. After all, we all remember "Unan1mous" (which was created by
co-creator Lincoln Hiatt).
But it did. And it garnered a fan following as
one of the smarter reality shows out there, if not one of the most underrated
due to its eschewing of all reality cliches at the time. There was no island, no
roses, no lifelines, no allies, no adversaries, no phone voting. The only thing
that stood between you and 50 G's was you. And we loved it.
I don't think we could've loved it any more than
we did. And yet, here we are at a precipice, as we prepare to shut VAL down for
perhaps the final time, having been victimized not by the series' own merits, but by the
times. The official word last year was that, "with the changing cable landscape,
(the company) made a strategic decision to shift some resources and refocus on
Put in layman's terms... the network was a money
You see, Fox Reality, like all big-time media
outlets, is controlled by income. Income comes as a result of commercial time.
And simply put, the buyers were not there for an all-reality TV network. Yet the
network was paying hand over fist for broadcast rights, prize budgets, and the
like. Past cases like "Survivor" on Versus and "The Amazing Race" on GSN proved
that the market wasn't ready for reruns of a long-form game show in which the
outcome is already known, let alone a network chock full of them. When corporate
money is at a premium, as it is in these hard times, you have to either reformat
for the good of the company, or cut the fat altogether.
Fox Reality, as it would appear, was not
financially viable enough for News Corporation to keep around. Hence, from March
29, we will be getting National Geographic Wild in its place.
But don't shed a quick tear just yet. "Solitary"
is a good strong format that tests the will and fortitude of its participants.
And a man much wiser than I once said, "A good idea doesn't die." Fox Reality is
but one outlet. There are many more, including sending it to corporate siblings
FX or My Network TV. Even selling the rights to GSN, who looks like they're
looking almost feverishly for a weekly series idea, would be feasible at this
It wouldn't be the first time a game show was put
on a shelf due to no fault of its own, as was proven by the resurgence of "The
Singing Bee" in 2009, the syndication of both "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" &
"Deal or No Deal", and the upcoming "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" If an idea has
merits that make it stand out in a pack due to its excellence, we will in fact
see it again. It's just a matter of when, where, and in what format.
But for now, I bow my head and take my hat off to
a good format that deserved a better fate, as I'm only left to say... "Good
Game Show Alphabet Redux
We're going online with our "P" entry, as we
salute the landmark game "PlayCafe". It launched at a time when the play-at-home
call-and-win game show was starting to come into its own (and perhaps brought
down through guilt-by-association). Again, it was a good idea, and hopefully
we'll see it again.
And no, the fact that our friend Chad Mosher was
a host and that our own Eric Pierce wrote for it didn't factor into the
selection. So don't ask. Thanks.
Chico Alexander's best friend, like many a
Solitarian, is a 42-inch plasma TV with a strange thing on... namely
"Jeopardy!". E-mail him at