TV game shows explore a kinder, gentler side

Television game shows in which contestants try to win big money for themselves are giving way to more altruistic shows that focus on helping others, TV industry experts say.

"Anonymous contestants winning huge amounts of money on TV could be on the way out," Dick de Rijk, the creator of the "Deal Or No Deal" show that has aired in 150 markets, said at the MIPFormats event that preceded the annual MIPTV audiovisual entertainment trade show underway in Cannes this week.

"We need involvement with the viewer more than ever before," said de Rijk, as he unveiled his latest show, "You Deserve It", which aims to show how it is better to give than to receive.

In "You Deserve It", contestants play on behalf of a relative, friend or acquaintance that is experiencing a really tough time after losing their job, going through a divorce of facing costly medical treatment.

But that person also has no idea they might receive cash that could change their life for ever.

"You Deserve It" has already been snapped up to be piloted on US network ABC.

Virginia Mouseler, who heads a television tracking and research agency, The Wit Report, agreed with De Rijk's forecast of a shift to a more feel-good approach to programming.

"The trend now is all about surviving after the severe financial crisis and helping others," Mouseler told AFP.

On game shows, cash prizes today are often smaller than the millions on offer in the past - but another new trend in the genre is for both viewers and contestants to see all the cash on offer.

In another de Rijk show, "Money Grabbers", a contestant, placed inside a glass dome, is showered with bank notes after surviving seven nerve-racking rounds. He or she must then try and grab as many notes as possible.

FreemantleMedia, whose hit shows include "American Idol" and its many international versions, has come to MIPTV with a clutch of brand new reality shows which aim to inspire youngsters and persuade viewers that they may have what it takes to become an international volunteer.

"Dream School", for example, which takes a trip back to a classroom with a difference, aspires to help teenaged drop-outs.

Described as both challenging and entertaining, the series, which has premiered on Britain's semi-public Channel 4 television, features well-known personalities from the sporting, political and arts worlds.

The mentors, who include lawyer Cherie Booth, historian David Starkey and decathlon gold medallist Dailey Thompson, aim to engage, encourage and educate pupils who have failed in the traditional school system.

"It's all about learning from example, not teaching them," Freemantle's chief operating officer Gary Carter told AFP.

"There is definitely a feeling of making a difference to the world and a definite attempt to go towards positive values."

Other inspirational new shows highlighted in a "Fresh TV Around the World" presentation hosted by Mouseler in Cannes included "Holding Out For A Hero".

Three contestants compete in this game show to win a big cash prize to hand over to their hero - a deserving person with an amazing story who again has no idea that someone has decided to make their dream come true.

A home of their own in a beautiful village is another new format aimed at changing a lucky family's life.

In "the Village", which is to premiere in Britain, 12 couples and families will compete to win their own home. But to win, they will have to charm the locals and convince them that they can make a real contribution to village life.

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