TV star wannabes queued up to conceive a baby with a stranger live on air for a £100,000 prize. The show was an experiment that highlighted the amazing lengths people will go to, just to get famous.
It started as a challenge – to come up with the ultimate tasteless reality TV show and test the boundaries of the format.
If you want to be famous then take a look at Brit Jade Goody. She was on Big Brother, didn’t even win it, but became a multi-million dollar success.
The spoof show, “Let’s Make a Baby” came dangerously close to becoming a real show.
TV hopefuls jammed the phone lines when the show advertised for contestants, and TV channels from all over the world offered vast sums of money to buy the rights to the series.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we would get that far with such little effort,” says the programmer’s producer and director, Helen Sage.
Let’s Make a Baby would centre on contestants – all strangers – living in a “fertility house”, with the least attractive being voted out each week. The remaining two couples would then have a race to conceive a child and win £100,000 each.
It sounds so shit already. Why would anyone in their right mind have anything to do with it? But that’s the trouble with some of these reality shows, they’re manufactured so that once you’ve seen 1 or 2 episodes, it’s got you. Even though it is terrible TV, it all of a sudden becomes compelling to watch.
The idea was first pitched to focus groups, all of which agreed it was morally questionable but said they would watch it. “It’s completely offensive,” said one group member. “Would I watch it? Yes.”
More than 200 people – including a gay man who was up for the challenge of trying to have sex with a female – applied to be a contestant. They were not told the show was a fake until after the auditions. Why would a gay man have sex with a female on TV? How desperately, desperate and sad people are becoming.
Finally, a party was put on at Europe’s biggest TV sales fair in Cannes to pitch the fake idea to TV channels from all over the world and test their reaction. Disturbingly, it created a real buzz and several offers came in.
“As a TV producer, I was really interested in the question of how low my industry would go in its bid to attract viewers and attention, the answer is very low indeed,” says Ms Sage.
Professor David Wilson, who walked out as a consultant on Big Brother for ethical reasons, says the premise of Let’s Make a Baby is morally repugnant and all about cheapening life, but he is not surprised that it attracted so much interest.
One person accused of taking reality TV to new lows is UK Big Brother 6 contestant, Kinga Karolczak. Her drunken antics with an empty wine bottle prompted a frenzy of complaints. Hoping to use the show to boost her singing career, she now feels a victim of reality TV.
“One thing that was stupidly edited has ruined my life,” she says.
The question is will the public lose its appetite for reality TV, will programme makers get a conscience? Neither, and things could get far more extreme.
It seems that there is no limit to anything anyone. The more shocking and controversial it is, the more people are going to want to watch it. The other year there was a huge web audience for a film on the net of hostages being beheaded. It is about how deep and depraved our imaginations can go.”
And as for Let’s Make a Baby? A Dutch television company is currently making a reality TV show called I want your baby, not your love. In it, men compete to be the one to donate their sperm to a single woman who wants a baby but not a boyfriend.
So if you want to get famous, just get on a reality TV show. The more shocking it is…probably the more famous you’ll become…at least for 15 minutes, maybe more.