Robin knew he had a winning idea on his hands the minute it came to him in the shower that morning. Now, standing at the head of the huge conference table ready to present it to the network heads, he was just as confident.
“Gentlemen, and lady,” he began, “I believe, no, I know, that I have thought of our network’s next big hit. Big enough to put up against ‘Survivor’.”
There were one or two small gasps around the table and Dave, who was the head of Marketing, spoke up.
“’Survivor’? Seriously? They are currently in production of their 50th season. What you have will be able to stand up to that?”
Robin grinned and spread his arms wide.
“Yes, I know it will. Picture this: We take two people, one that’s 150 pounds and one that’s 250 pounds. We put them in a luxurious house on a tropical island paradise. We stock it with the best food and wine in the world, as well as a fully equipped gym with all the latest gadgets. They have 30 days to get to the same weight. If they can get within one pound of each other at the end of the month then they each win a million dollars. We’d call it ‘Meet Me In The Middle’.”
The room was totally silent for a few seconds and then burst into a chaos of shouts of “That’s unethical!” and “We can’t afford that!” and “Dear God what if they win – we’ll be ruined!”
Robin had expected this and let them rant for a few minutes until they lost their steam and quieted down.
“Of course,” he continued as if nothing had happened, “we get to choose the contestants ourselves. The smaller of the two should be a health nut, someone who constantly works out, refuses to eat foods that are bad for them, that kind of thing. The larger person should be someone with an eating disorder who has a history of finding it hard to lose weight. Ideally one or both would have anger management issues as well. They’d have to sign all the usual legal documents stating they were releasing us from all responsibility should things go wrong, that sort of thing – legal isn’t my area of expertise. With the house and yard covered in cameras I believe it would be quite entertaining.”
As he stood there looking around the table he could see from the looks on their faces that he had them.
Over the coming weeks a gorgeous house was found in the Caribbean complete with everything they were looking for, it even had a pool. All they had to do was stock it with food and drink and some of the latest and best exercise equipment. And install all the cameras of course.
The search for the two contestants went better than expected as well. Their small contestant, Jonas Byerly, weighing in at 155 pounds, was an ex-cop and health nut, who had a strict daily fitness regimen that started at 5:00am every day. He had been kicked off the force for excessive violence. Their large contestant, Dylan Lister, was a computer programmer who weighed in at 250 pounds. He had a history of trying diet after diet after diet and never being able to lose more than 15 or 20 pounds and then gaining it right back again. While not having a history of violence he played a lot of violent video games and Robin decided that this was a good enough substitute.
A huge media campaign was launched worldwide. The weigh in and lock in were broadcast live to a record breaking audience. Teaser clips made from footage taken in and around the house were released on YouTube daily and had over a million viewers within hours. Robin was riding his success like a prince. He bought a new house and Porche and was eating at all the fancy restaurants in Hollywood with all the ‘right’ people.
But with just four days left all media coverage from the network about ‘Meet Me In The Middle’ stopped. Robin disappeared from the public eye. The show was pulled from the network’s fall lineup. The families of the two contestants refused to talk to the media. The day for the unlocking and the 30 day weigh in came and went with no word from the network. The public was clamoring for news of their new favorite obsession. Some speculated that the blackout was just a stunt to obtain more publicity. Others weren’t so sure. Weeks passed and no one heard a thing.
A month after the filming was to have ended a 10 minute video was released anonymously onto YouTube. The video wasn’t very good quality and the audio was subpar as well, but it appeared to show various clips from ‘Meet Me In The Middle’ spliced together. At first all seemed well but as time progressed things took a turn for the worse. Jonas would constantly berate Dylan for eating too much or not exercising. It soon escalated to him screaming at him and at one point hitting him for eating two helpings of food. As more time progressed things degenerated quickly. Jonas was seen forcing Dylan to exercise, making him swim laps or to jog around the yard. In every clip Jonas’ behavior was getting more and more physically abusive and violent. In the last clip Dylan is seen to be holding a large butcher knife over his head and walking up behind Jonas who is not aware he is there and then it ends abruptly. YouTube took the video down after being made aware of its existence.
There has still been no comment from the network or the families of the contestants.
Note: The idea for this story came from a Reddit list that asked “If ethics were not a problem, what reality show would you love to see?” This idea was proposed by user “dubroe” and I thank them for it and give them full credit for the idea – I just fleshed it out.