New Alternate-Reality Series Puts 12 Strangers On Island Where South Won Civil War

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Vol 39 Issue 47

Senate Votes 64-36, Not Sure On What

WASHINGTON, DC—The U.S. Senate voted 64-36 in favor of S. 546 Monday, despite the lack of any awareness of the bill's contents. "Wait a minute—S. 546?" asked Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), hurriedly shuffling through a stack of papers after hearing of the bill's passage. "I tend to just vote with Maria Cantwell [(D-WA)], but apparently, she just voted with Thomas Carper [(D-DE)]. Does anybody know what's in S. 546?! Oh, geez." Conrad said he isn't certain, but that he might remember someone mentioning something about the Bend Pine Nursery Land Conveyance Act.

Small Town Honors Once-Ostracized Artist

ANSLEY, NE—Nearly 450 of Ansley's 590 residents gathered in the town square Monday morning to dedicate a statue of the late sculptor Robert Kett, who was born in the town in 1946 and generally either ignored or reviled during the 24 years he lived there. "Although no one took any notice of his art while he lived here, Mr. Kett has touched us all through his national fame," said Ansley mayor Paul Hollub, who went to high school with Kett and frequently referred to him as "that Kett faggot." "Though he was the object of our derision for many years, Robert is truly Ansley's favorite son." Examples of Kett's work, on display at the Guggenheim, will be reproduced and sold in postcard form at the ice-cream shop behind which he was once beaten up.

Alan Colmes Loses Argument With Nephew

NEW YORK—Alan Colmes, the liberal co-host of the Fox News debate program Hannity & Colmes, lost an argument to his nephew Bryan while babysitting the 8-year-old Monday. "I wanted to stay up late to watch television, but Uncle Alan said, 'There's already too much self-parenting in America,'" Bryan said. "So I started screaming, 'Mom lets me, Mom lets me,' real loud. He gave in after, like, 20 seconds." In the past two years, Bryan has won arguments with Colmes on the subjects of Pokémon cards, Crunch Berries cereal, and steel tariffs.

Trial Separation Works Out Great

BIRMINGHAM, AL—Both Marlene and Paul Hirsh reported Monday that the first four weeks of their trial separation have gone surprisingly well.
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New Alternate-Reality Series Puts 12 Strangers On Island Where South Won Civil War

LOS ANGELES—CBS executives announced Monday that they have begun filming Antebellum Island, a new "alternate reality" series in which 12 strangers compete for $1 million while isolated on an island still under Confederate rule.

Antebellum Island

"Set to air in the spring of 2004, Antebellum Island gives us the unique opportunity to play with both social dynamics and recorded history," CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves said. "The contestants on Antebellum Island will spend 60 days braving the elements, each other, and the unfamiliar customs and practices of a 21st-century Confederate States of America—all for a chance to win a cool million."

Added Moonves: "That's one million in Union dollars, of course!"

Moonves said contestants will be isolated on a sun-drenched tropical island, where they will participate in competitions designed to emphasize teamwork and interpersonal friction in the rigidly stratified alternate-universe society.

The Big Four networks have seen dwindling Nielsen numbers for variations on reality shows, a trend CBS hopes to reverse with a new genre of programs that "go beyond reality."

"When we were brainstorming this show, we knew we wanted an eclectic cast and an exotic locale," said Matt Davies, executive producer of Antebellum Island. "But none of the ideas were clicking as 'reality plus totally new'—until someone said, 'Hey, no one's done a show set in an America where the Union army lost, and Jefferson Davis replaced Lincoln as president.' We knew we had a winner."

Davies said CBS also seriously considered another alternate-reality series called The Man In The High Castle In The Outback, in which 12 women would compete for the love of a Jewish man hiding in Australia under an assumed name because the Allies lost WWII to Nazi Germany. Ultimately, executives deemed the scenario less likely to engage the average American viewer than the post-Civil-War alternate reality.

Scouts chose a tropical location after they failed to find an island in the Mississippi River with enough land mass to sustain the manufacturing-based economy of a country that did not begin its transition from an agricultural society to a modern industrial society until the early 1900s.

Three <i>Antebellum Island</i> contestants in a scene from the show's premiere episode.

"It's a totally new and exciting location," Davies said. "Our 12 strangers must adapt to the altogether-unfamiliar territory of an island where the states and the people are guaranteed those rights not specifically delegated to the federal government!"

Contestant auditions for Antebellum Island were held in Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA. Interviewees were asked such questions as: "Do you consider yourself fun-loving and up for new challenges?" "Do you believe women should be given the vote?" and "Do you reckon Dred Scott shoulda been hung from the highest tree?"

"We have a good mix of people for our first cast—all colors and creeds," Davies said. "On this show, as you might imagine, diversity is especially crucial. We plan to break the participants into two 'families,' the Masons and the Dixons."

"In casting the show, we looked for people who displayed adaptability, good judgment, and impeccable hospitality," Davies said. "But we wanted to let the contestants' personalities shape the show. We didn't just look to fill the typical slots: plantation owner, houseboy, carpetbagger, and Uncle Tom."

Executives were reluctant to reveal the themes for Antebellum's weekly competitions, but said contests might include skeet shooting, quilting bees, formal-dress cotillions, and working at a textile factory on the west side of the island for the entire show's duration with no chance at the $1 million prize.

Davies said the show's first episode will feature an adventure-filled whitewater-rafting trip, in which one team will attempt to make it to the "New Orleans Checkpoint," while the other will try to stop it from meeting up with the British ships in port and demanding asylum.

"We've thought a lot about how contestants should be kicked off the island," Davies said. "The voting thing has been done to death, and anyway, on our island, voting is a very touchy subject. Right now, we're toying with allowing cast members to just escape to the North. But it might be neat to choreograph some sort of mad uprising for the final episode. Whatever we do, you can bet it'll be exciting, tension-filled, and consistent with an America where slavery and states' rights survived long after the 1860s."

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