Sunday night’s debut of Charm School represented, by my count, the 11th show in the series that started with Flavor of Love–and of course, that started with The Surreal Life, and then spawned Strange Love. Upcoming are a third Rock of Love, and later this month, Real Chance at Love. That’s more than a dozen shows now, and there’s no indication it’ll stop any time soon.
The two men responsible for both resuscitating VH1 and unleashing this plague upon the earth, Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin, talked to VH1 about their series, and Cronin said that it’s impossible to have too many spin-offs. “No such thing. I keep saying we keep doing the same show, we’re just changing the title. Sometimes we change the rules. Sometimes we change the prize. Sometimes it’s Flav, sometimes it’s $100,000. But either way: same show.”
Cronin also said that copying their shows and using the same people is necessary. Although they kicked off the “celebreality” craze with The Surreal Life, he said that “it got so big that we can’t even play in that game. The celebrities are on, like, Dancing With the Stars, and they get six figures to appear on that show. It’s become such a big industry now that whatever the early fun of it was is kind of gone now. The next step Cris and I have taken is that we’re now in the celebrity-making business.”
Their strategy is simple. “When we find a great character, if we can find a continuing story with that character, we go with it. If we find someone the audience loves, we find a way to bring them back to continue the storyline. It’s like a soap opera,” Cronin said.
The original genesis of the shwos came from considering what The Bachelor does not do. “It’s like, what if the Bachelor was actually a big character? The Bachelors tend not to be big characters. They tend to be nice, eligible men. Hunks, maybe, but thatâ€™s not character. A good character is someone who says funny stuff and who has a weird, whacked-out lifestyle. So, really, we wondered, ‘What if the bachelor were a crazy lunatic?'”