CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association began its winter press tour this week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of Showtime's presentation (via press release):
Showtime to Introduce 'AMERICAN CANDIDATE'
Government's Federal Election Commission Says The Show Will Comply With Election Law
Showtime Networks will become the campaign headquarters for AMERICAN CANDIDATE starting this summer. Unscripted and unprecedented, AMERICAN CANDIDATE is a 10-episode, one-hour reality series from Academy Award(R)-nominated and Emmy(R)-winning documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler ("The War Room," "American High," Showtime's FRESHMAN DIARIES), executive producer Jay Roach (director of "Austin Powers in Goldmember," "Meet the Parents") and executive producer Tom Lassally ("Stay"). The announcement was made today by Robert Greenblatt, President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks Inc., following the recent Federal Election Commission's positive advisory opinion that the content of the show will not violate federal election laws.
In "American Idol" fashion, this series will attempt to identify one individual who has the qualifications and qualities to be President of the United States. The show will debut with 12 contestants from all walks of life. Over the course of the next 10 weeks, those 12 will face-off against each other in a series of challenges designed to test their presidential mettle and to show viewers what really goes on in the making of a presidential candidate. Week-by-week, the original pool of candidates will be winnowed down through audience participation and polling. The final episode will be a showdown between the remaining two candidates, and one person will emerge victorious -- the "American Candidate" -- by proving that he or she has what it takes to run for the highest office in the land.
"The ideas upon which this country was built -- that anyone can run for public office and each voice counts -- seem to be a thing of the past," Greenblatt said. "This show, which is designed to find the ideal 'American candidate' from out of obscurity, will try to change all that. In the hands of these extraordinary producers, I think it will have amazing relevance to our country in a presidential election year -- and who knows, maybe our winner will actually decide to enter the race."
Cutler comments, "American Candidate is going to engage people in the political process in a way that has never been done before. Television has always been the most powerful medium for candidates to get their message across to the voting public. While there is no doubt that this will be highly entertaining, we believe it will be an examination of the process and address serious political issues."
With involvement from bi-partisan advisors, this unique series is designed to find an unknown leader from the ranks of ordinary citizens who could catapult to national prominence and demonstrate that he or she possesses the leadership capabilities and talent to be President. Using grass-roots efforts and the power of television, the show's contestants will mirror the activities of the actual presidential candidates. In addition, they will be put through the rigorous paces of anyone running for this office. They will engage in debates, hold political rallies, receive the advice of seasoned political strategists, create advertisements, select running mates, have their backgrounds scrutinized by the press and engage in opposition research. Everything is fair game.
AMERICAN CANDIDATE will maintain an active presence on the Internet. Its web site, http://www.americancandidate.com, will accept applications from eligible Americans. Applications can also be obtained by calling 877-RUN-2004 (877-786-2004). The web site will launch on Thursday, January 8. A five-month selection process will narrow the pool to 12 finalists. These contestants will be introduced to the nation on the premiere episode on Showtime.
Candidates will maintain their own homepages on which they can present their qualifications, platforms and visions for the country. They can also use the homepages as organizing tools to recruit volunteers, organize events and otherwise promote their issues. The AMERICAN CANDIDATE web site will offer information about contestant schedules and events, streaming media, message boards, chat rooms and other content. Showtime will promote the series on the network's Web site, sho.com, as well.
Cutler is an Emmy(R) and Peabody award winner, and has been an Academy Award(R) and Independent Spirit Award nominee. His production company, Actual Reality Pictures, specializes in the creation and production of non-fiction film and television projects, which include Showtime's FRESHMAN DIARIES, Discovery Health Network's "The Residents" and VH-1's "Military Diaries." Cutler also created, directed and executive produced the Fox and PBS series "American High" which received the 2001 Emmy(R) Award for Outstanding Reality Program. As a filmmaker, Cutler began his career as the producer of "The War Room," which was nominated for an Academy Award and was named Best Documentary of the Year by the National Board of Review. Cutler also directed and produced the feature documentary "A Perfect Candidate" and he directed, produced and co-wrote the short film "Anita Liberty."
Tom Lassally is the principal partner in Kustom Entertainment, a management/production company. Lassally is currently in production on the feature project "Stay," directed by Marc Forster and starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Lassally will soon begin pre-production on his next project "87' Fleer" by Alex Tse, with Paul Hunter attached to direct. Before forming Kustom Entertainment, Mr. Lassally was a longtime executive at Warner Bros. He joined the studio as Vice-President of Theatrical Production before rising to Executive Vice-President in 1995. He supervised such movies as "Heat," "Time To Kill," "Batman Forever," "Analyze This" and "Any Given Sunday."
Jay Roach made his feature directorial debut with the break out hit "Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery" and returned for the blockbuster sequels "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and "Austin Powers in Goldmember." After helming the small-town comedy, "Mystery, Alaska," Roach went on to direct "Meet The Parents," starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, which broke box office records and was acclaimed by critics. Roach is in pre-production on "Meet The Fockers," scheduled for release in December, 2004, through Universal. Roach's company, Everyman Pictures, is actively involved in feature and TV development and production through an overall deal at Twentieth Century Fox.