Viewers who love the voyeurism of Big Brother but wish the house was a lot smaller may want to make a mental note of a new reality show in the works at the CW that is nearly certain to give its contestants nervous breakdowns. Vulture has learned that the network is fast-tracking development of The Frame, a Truman Show–like real-time competition series in which teams of two are isolated in small rooms, with their life broadcast on TV and the net as they compete against each other. It’s got elements of the aforementioned Brother, along with dashes of The Amazing Race, the now-defunct Fox Reality Channel series Solitary, and life in a supermax prison.
Based on an Israeli format created by a company called Armoza, the tentatively titled Frame is expected to revolve around seven or eight teams of two: players with various social connections, like two sisters who’ve been estranged, or a newly engaged couple. The teams will all be confined to a small space — perhaps no bigger than ten feet by ten feet — with a camera monitoring their every move. If they leave the space, or “the frame,” they are, rhymingly, out of the game. (Yes, players will be given short off-camera breaks for bodily functions and grooming.) The teams will participate in challenges held within their living quarters — challenges that presumably don’t involve a lot of running — and rewards and games may sometimes be dictated by audiences. How players interact with their partners will help determine how long they stay in the game: “The couple that’s least interesting to America each week could go home,” a person familiar with the format says.
To avoid what happened during the first season of Big Brother — when folks deemed too “mean” were sent packing by viewers, quickly leaving a house full of innocuous dullards — the results of the group competitions will also factor into who gets eliminated, not just the audience voting. The real challenge of The Frame, however, will be living with someone in a tiny space for days on end. “The crux of the show is the mental challenge of it, that you’re essentially chained to someone 24/7 like in Midnight Run. It’s basically, ‘Hell is other people,,’” our source said. (Good news for all of you who have been waiting for that elusive Charles Grodin/Jean-Paul Sartre mash-up!) Of course, there is a pitfall to this plan: As anyone who has ever traveled cross-country with a friend knows, major arguments in close quarters are usually followed by hours and hours of icy silence.
CW execs are said to be particularly intrigued by the format because of its multi-platform component: The network’s younger audience is already used to watching CW shows via online streams or downloads, and The Frame is a concept that offers a chance for audiences to engage both via the Internet and TV (it would stream constantly, but would broadcast on the CW twice a week). While The Frame is still in the early stages of development, activity around the show is picking up. If things proceed apace, The Frame could air as soon as mid-season or possibly next summer. You can check out Armoza’s original staged sales reel for The Frame here, though the show itself is expected to look very different. Or, to get a more concrete idea of just what you’d be in for, click here to check out the first produced version of the format, which debuted earlier this month in Spain under the name El Marco. Apparently dancing and dressing up plays a big part.