Reality TV version of Hunger Games secretly being developed

This satirical, fictional story is part of the April 1, 2012, edition of reality blurred. Happy April Fool’s Day.

A coalition of TV networks and producers have been quietly developing a reality TV version of The Hunger Games, which is expected to premiere in 2013 and be broadcast 24/7 for at least eight weeks on Fox, ABC, CBS, TLC, MTV, and ABC Family. While the dystopian novels feature teenagers fighting to the death, the reality series will allow them to fight violently until they knock their opponents unconscious for at least an hour using weapons such as tasers, blow darts with poison tips, and knives designed to create superficial wounds. The winner will receive $1 million.

The show was conceived when the networks realized that the contest depicted in the popular book series barely satirizes their reality shows. “We’re constantly messing with our contestants and throwing obstacles in their way to entertain ourselves–I mean, our audience,” said a Big Brother producer who asked not to be named. “The only difference is we haven’t been able to kill them–unless you consider the metaphoric transformation that takes place when quasi-deranged famewhores are confined to a small space and then released into a world where no one cares about them, causing their humanity to die as they relentlessly seek attention. In that case, we’re homicidal maniacs.”

Early discussions focused on whether or not to let contestants actually kill one another. While the graphic violence wasn’t a concern, networks were concerned that the budget required to dispose of bodies was too much in this era of cost-cutting. Medical teams will be on standby to prevent death from blood loss. For live broadcasts, there will be a 10-second delay in case a contestant swears while stabbing another one in the neck.

Survivor producers will serve as gamemakers, because of the show’s reputation for its high quality and its similarity to the Hunger Games competition itself, and because of CBS’ similarity to the Capitol’s government. All six networks will simulcast a three-hour prime-time episode every night, and trade off broadcasting live footage from the arena during the day, sparing them the need to create new or innovative programming for a significant period of time.

Sources say that an arena is being built north of Los Angeles that will resemble the one featured in the second book, Catching Fire, because it’s smaller and more contained, although the body of water at its center will be significantly smaller than the one described in the novel. Each of the 12 zones will have interchangeable booby traps, such as hallucinogenic chemicals and projected video of “after the break” teasers.

Casting has quietly begun and will follow the books’ template as best possible, with 12 pairs of teenagers ages 10 to 18 being selected from different regions–or at least, the only six regions that people in Hollywood think exist: Los Angeles, New Jersey, Texas, Alaska, New York, and the south/swamps. TLC’s casting team is overseeing the process, thanks to their ability to find parents willing to sacrifice their children to television and fame.

ABC Family was the last network to come on board, and said yes once they realized the show would involve shirtless teenagers. NBC is not participating, exiting discussions early because, as an executive said, “We’re generally not fans of broadcasting shows people would want to watch.”

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.