Sooner or later, it had to happen. Nestled cozily in my inbox between an email from a grumpy opposing attorney and a bar association solicitation, there it was: "NOW CASTING DIVORCED COUPLES FOR NEW NBC SERIES." Of course, I clicked.
Eyeworks (producers of The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss), in partnership with NBC, is currently casting a transformative new series that will feature divorced couples with kids. The parents must be amicable enough to reunite for up to four weeks in a tropical locale to compete in physical and mental challenges against other duos in order to win a $500,000 trust fund for their children. We hope to see the couples' team work, communication and co-parenting skills improve throughout the series.
It's brilliant. Instead of taking strangers, a la Survivor, manipulating them into situations fraught with inherent conflict, and seeing how they work their way out of it, take people who are tested veterans of the interpersonal joust -- people who have been through the mother of all conflicts and are intimately familiar with each other's strengths and weaknesses -- put them in a pressure cooker, and wait for the drama which will inevitably ensue. Problem is who, exactly, would sign up? Of course there is the powerful draw of having a shot at winning half a million bucks, but how many divorced couples do you know who could envision themselves spending a month traipsing around said tropical locale in flip-flops, engaging in elaborate treasure hunts, navigating ropes courses and plastering mud on bee stings with the person they have recently spent a considerable amount of time and money trying to get away from? If they were good at tackling "physical and mental challenges" together, they would most likely still be married.
And then there's the surprise ending: The goal, the producers tell us, is to help these couples! To improve their communication and make them better co-parents! Somehow, I don't think our producers are being totally candid here. I guess there could be some heart-warming scenes of marital reconciliation or maybe even a steamy kiss, or more, but I highly doubt they really believe that watching people effectively co-parent will make for riveting TV. (Camera pans to Mom and Dad, sitting around the campfire after having tended to their bee stings and eaten their pot of foraged mussels. "John, we need to talk about where Sofia is going to camp this summer. I was thinking soccer for two weeks, sleep away for four, and then the arts center program. What about you?")
All of the above aside, 500K is a lot of money. So as I read the email, I started mentally scanning my recent divorce clients. Here's who I'm looking for: 1) Good relationship with ex-spouse. 2) Needs 500K. 3) Despite No. 2, can afford to leave job for a month and hire someone to care for kids the whole time. 4) Would look great in bikini/board shorts. 5) Has exhibitionist tendencies. 6) Has ex-spouse who meets all same criteria.
So far, I haven't come up with the right candidate, but I'm working on it.