My ticket to fame and glory …
… is reality television. I’ve given up my hope of winning the Amazing Race with my friend Mare (even though I know we would so rock if we could get on the show), so it’s time to move on from my brief career as reality television wannabe contestant, and, as with all aging stars, move into the production side of things.
So, here’s my idea and, yes, I’m writing this down so that when someone makes a mint with my idea I can sue their pants off and use this post as evidence. As a librarian, I sort of get copyright law. One cannot claim copyright for an idea, only for its recorded expression. Well, here’s the expression.
So, we’ve had Idol and Survivor and Fear Factor and Useless Bachelor Slobs and so on. Well, most reality TV is just pure schlock, of course, with the lone exception of Idol. Yes, it’s schlock, too, but what sets it apart is that there are talented people in the mix doing what they do well, not driving double decker buses in London to get their next clue or eating roaches, and they emerge at the end and sing their little hearts out. It’s not a reach to say that there are literally thousands of individuals with great voices and stage presence in the US, yet most of them will never have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of glory if they don’t get a lucky break. Enter Idol. The drama is real, the competition can be intense, and one sees real heartbreak and triumph amidst the flimflam.
So, take that recipe, and apply it to a sport that already has heartbreak and triumph in spades: cycling. The title of my soon-to-be-produced reality show was going to be Who Wants to Be the Next Lance Armstrong, but I realized I’d have to have his pesky permission, as well as that of his sponsors (Lance has no existence but that defined by the NikeGiroOakleyTrekINGSquibb machine). That’s just too much work, and while I absolutely worship the man’s performances in le Tour and le battle with cancer, I have no real desire to meet him. Nor he me, I’m sure. So, the new working title is Who Wants to Be the Next Tour Star. When the organizers of le Tour come calling for royalties, I’ll show them the door by noting that there are many cycling tours, so who says I meant theirs and not the Tour du Faso. Besides, as you’ll see below, I really don’t.
The premise behind the show is the same as for the singing competition, namely, there are literally thousands of super-talented cyclists in the US toiling in obscurity in local races or not even racing at all because they have to work another job or two to feed themselves. There are no scouts for T-Mobile, Gerolsteiner, Quick Step, et al., showing up at local races, as there are with, say high school football or other such sports. To get from the US to a European team is like passing through the eye of the needle. It takes money and luck. Even making it big in the US is hard given the dearth of money to be made from training incessantly and racing every weekend in a sport with minimal cash input. The American cyclist in me says that if we had a real system that developed talent and sent it out globally, we’d stomp on those weenie European riders something sick. As it is, a few brave souls have to carry the flag. I’m not a jingoist at all. I just want to see cycling drama.
So, to find contestants, we stage a series of regional three day races, involving a flat road stage, a time trial, and a climbing stage. Depending on how many races are held, the top set of finishers, say, ten per race, ten races, so one hundred total, qualify to move on to the show. Men and women compete in their own divisions. This is going to be about cycling, not about men. Oh, you can only ride in these races if you meet some minimum criteria. I have yet to work those out, but they have something to do with one’s ability to generate wattage, an application listing vital stats such as height, weight, age, training regimen, and an essay about why this is important to them. The last part is to give us material in terms of human interest stuff and find some characters, but the height/weight stuff is all business. Practically no one over six feet tall will ever ride professionally, and if you’re 5’7″ and 170 pounds, you may be super fit, but you will just die on climbs. It’s power to weight, baby.
Once we’ve got a hundred people in each group, we move to a central location and get to business. The location will have great cycling terrain, but be out of the way so that traffic control, crowd control, etc. is a bit simpler. Also, some smaller towns might love to have such a show in their neighborhood and offer all kinds of incentives. It’s part training camp–we get some coaches with good reputations to run this–part racing, with a new type of race every week that winnows the field down. It will have every type you can think of: sprint, mountain, criterium, time trial. To add spice, certain weeks will feature teams, so that riders have to learn to help each other or all get booted. We all know that cycling is only about the individual to a degree. Without tactics, you’re just another overpowered schlub on a nice bike.
The prize: a contract with a US pro team, a la Jelly Belly or Toyota United. Sure, I’d love to offer a slot on Astana or Discovery, but I’m not sure that’s really in the cards. I think anyone who could emerge from such a varied competition will shine at that level, and from there the leap to Europe is actually a doable prospect. This is the recording contract that Idol offers gone cycling: a chance to skip years of grunt work and make the connection to a team that otherwise would never, ever find you as you got beat up in a bunch of local races.
Anyone who watches cycling–and anyone who takes a few hours to watch a Tour (yes, that Tour) stage will be hooked for life–knows that it is high freakin’ drama and that those riders are sick little puppies with no regard for pain or suffering. Now, add to that the incentive to ride yourself stupid for a chance at a pro contract, and I think the races this show would offer would be a demonstration of some of the most courageous and outrageous cycling that’s ever been filmed. In pro races, if you finish second or third or even eighth, that’s pretty good and you know there’s another race ahead. In this competition, such failure means you go back to your non-cycling life and someone else moves on. I don’t know about you, but I’d get out of the saddle and push myself into hypoxic-lactic-acid-overdose-induced dementia to avoid that fate, and that would make some fine television.
So, who’s my dream announcer? Bob Roll. Bob, buddy, you I do want to meet, unlike Mr. Armstrong, and the way you burn for cycling is tailor-made for a show like this. Your gift for colorfully illustrating the pain and agony of cycling would be most appropriate for such a spectacle. So, relying on the notion of only six degrees of separation, I’m hoping, dimly, that someone reads this who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Bob and says, hey, Bob, this crazy f*** wants you to do his show. Besides, my dream locale for the races is Grand Junction–great weather, fab scenery, varied terrain, open roads–and I seem to recall he lives in Durango. It’s a match made in heaven.
Oh, contestants will pee in bottles and offer blood samples. Anyone caught doping will have their arms removed and eyes gouged out. Really. Ride clean or suffer the shame.
Anyone know how to make a TV show? I’m taking applications …