When there's a Will, there's a way.
Or so it seems when it comes to Mike Fleiss and reality television.
The executive producer and creator of the real-life dating drama The Bachelor has hatched a new reality series called The Will for ABC.
The show will revolve around a wealthy benefactor who will bequeath his family fortune to the winner of a game-show style, real-life contest between his relatives.
Producers are currently on the hunt for the perfect combo of a rich relative "with a sizable fortune and a substantial sense of humor" and greedy family members who are willing to play games for cash. Applications are currently being taken online at www.thewilltv.com.
Fleiss (who happened to be dead-on in his prediction that a bunch of beautiful single women would humiliate themselves on national television for a shot a marriage) seems to think he will have another viewer-friendly hit on his hands.
"This should give viewers a unique look at a real American family," said Fleiss. "The vote-outs between relatives should be intense."
The show will feature weekly contests devised by the benefactor, in which the would-be heirs compete for a certain part of the estate (the Bentley, the yacht, the spread in the Hamptons, the toy poodle, etc.). There will be a Tribal Council-like segment at the end of each episode, in which the battling family members gets to vote out a relative, effectively writing that person out of the will.
While the big prize won't be collected until the rich guy (or gal) passes away, Fleiss says there will be some instant gratification involved, although the finer details won't be hammered out until the benefactor is found.
The Will will bow sometime in 2003 on ABC--either as a summer series or in the fall.
The ailing Alphabet net recently signed a multi-year, wide-ranging deal with Fleiss, his production company, Next Entertainment, and Telepictures Productions for The Will and an additional reality series in hopes of rating glory.
"When we put Mike up to bat, he always hits us a home run," says Andrea Wong, senior vice president, Alternative Series and Specials, ABC. "We expect The Will to continue his tradition of giving us appointment, 'water-cooler' television."
Fleiss has held his own with the surprisingly successful Bachelor and its spinoff, The Bachelorette. Now in its second season, the series premiere recently bested NBC's The West Wing by 54 percent among adults in the 18-to-34 demographic, and the second episode beat the ailing presidential drama, as well. For the season, The Bachelor has been averaging a healthy 12.1 million viewers.
Network officials say the show's success guarantees a second edition of The Bachelorette in the spring, followed by a third edition of The Bachelor.
The announcement of The Will is yet the latest salvo in what seems to be an ongoing battle between the networks for reality glory.
In recent months, Fox has hatched such would-be classics as Celebrity Boot Camp and two editions of Celebrity Boxing. NBC is still going strong with Fear Factor. CBS continues to bring us Survivor. ABC also still plans to debut I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here midseason (a show that strands B-listers in a remote location where they're voted out by viewers), in spite of litigation from the Survivor camp for allegedly ripping off the CBS show.