Well, it was time to turn the political lamp off for a bit and throw out there something cool, sci-fi-ish and fun. So, would you folks like to see the pitch I prepared, years ago, for a reality/tech TV show called REBUILDING EVERYTHING?
(BTW, it is still WGA registered and copyrighted!)
Alas, my pitches for this were no more successful than my brief but fun stint as a TV star in THE ARCHITECHS. What ever happened to guts and imagination?
A reality TV pitch... by David Brin...
Picture "Survivor" meets "The 1900 House" meets "Junkyard Wars"... then throw in lots of fascinating Discovery Channel riffs... along with a dash of "The Flintstones". Then add a sensation that viewers are actually learning something of value, becoming a little more capable and knowing about their own culture.
In the ultimate challenge, competitive teams race each other, starting from scratch to rebuild civilization!
Participants begin almost naked, except for a handheld web-communicator device -- a top-end, broadband web accessory -- that lets them consult with "the gods"... in other words with experts anywhere in the world. Editors will splice these capsule "how to" lessons with contestants' fumbling efforts to follow the advice.
Once they succeed at a task, it is assumed that their “civilization” (their team) has that technology from then on. They will be provided any tools they require from that level, in order to attempt the next. (A ready supply of primitive tools can be found, easily available, from many amateur groups online. And more support groups may be spawned by the show itself.)
Upon mastering, say, five era-appropriate technologies, each team may be confronted with some tough challenge. For example, after forging bronze swords and armor, they may have to fight off a symbolic enemy from Homeric times... (or at least prove that they could). Or maybe build a Trojan Horse! Bridge a stream. Bring water to the village. Anything that is both dramatic and focused on the era in question.
Needless to say, the scenario is open-ended. Promise of even tougher challenges may help keep people glued. Can the teams (and producers!) manage to make this premise work all the way to the electric light and motor? (And somehow keep up drama amid the tech-challenges?) How about building a working steam boat, then piloting it upstream? Or constructing a real working car, from nature's own raw materials! (Time frames may be telescoped as we progress.)
The dramatic/competitive scenario; as I picture it, nobody is "voted off" the teams. Rather, each week's winning tribe is allowed to recruit more members as they go along, perhaps from eager show-watchers who send in tapes of their skills. (A more pleasant and positive arrangement.) Or else they can "steal" members from other teams. The growing tribe will need MORE capability and cooperation as time passes, not less! Also, this gives viewers an ongoing hope/fantasy - that next week THEY will be chosen to join one of the tribes.
As teams grow, tension may arise from trade, as they need to barter or buy things from each other, filling in skills they never conquered. Perhaps simulated conflict? After a successful 1st season, might international teams bring in multicultural flavor, showing various “solutions” with an Asian or African tilt? (They might participate remotely with collaborating production teams in, say, China, paying their own way.)
An ideal sponsor might be one of the mobile wireless technology companies those positioning themselves for the next big thing, like that 'tablet for communicating with the gods." Participants would of course use their brand of access, and every look-up/advice session would be a incredibly vivid and convincing product placement. Other advertisers who might like this show include tool makers, folks selling encyclopedias and How-To book series, etc.
On a cerebral level, consider the benefits of showing people how a complex civilization is held together not only by a myriad present-day skills, but also via connections made by the clever and hardworking ancestors who got us here. It will show that at least some of us (the show's viewers) might be able to rebuild, if they ever had to, from scratch.
In several ways this show will be about the best in us. That may appeal to countless folks who would like to see how we made it this far.
Addenum notes: Methods for keeping costs down might include having private amateur clubs provide many of the materials, perhaps building portions of the villages. They might even stage the event on their own time, expense and schedule, with cameras present more as news coverage than as producers. This, in turn, might keep liability issues down.
Who would want to watch? Wide demographics! DIY types who enjoy "this old house", armchair historians, and teachers looking for things to show in classrooms.