'Jailbreak', the UK programme on which Zee's 'POW' is loosely based

POW (Prisoner of War), Zee TV's foray into the brave new world of reality TV, draws its inspiration from the British produced show Jailbreak, which aired in September 2000.

While Zee asserts that POW is a concept developed specially for Indian audiences, a closer look at Jailbreak should give some idea of what the public can expect from POW.

The format in Jailbreak was that there were five men and five women prisoners, making up what was called the Jailbreak Ten. The ten came from diverse backgrounds with their individual personalities and experiences, and had never met before being selected as one of the prisoners. Zee plans to have nine "POWs" who will form the prison team.

If any of the ten were unable to continue, there were four standby contestants, one of whom replaced the unfortunate prisoner.

Jailbreak prison was a specially constructed state-of-the-art prison complex, and run on exactly the same lines as a real prison. Inmates had real prison food, genuine prison activities and regimes, had to endure normal prison exercise programmes and curfew hours, and cope with real prison-level showers and sanitary conditions. However, instead of regulation prison cells, Jailbreak inmates slept in two dormitories, for male and female inmates: unless, of course, they happened to be in solitary for breaking the rules.

Working from the outside trying to help the inmates escape was the escape committee which left five messages daily which the "prisoners" could access. In addition there were visits from family and friends every Saturday.

From a total of over 30 webcams, at least five were always available, showing the latest from inside the prison.

The selection process for Jailbreak was organised over several months. A team of researchers set out to find ten members of the public from different walks of life, each capable of using their own lifeskills and talents to meet the challenge of escaping from a high-security jail. The Jailbreak selection process was deliberately undertaken to incorporate contestants of all ages and social backgrounds.

None of the inmates had any prior knowledge of the layout or design of the prison, nor did they visit it before their incarceration. Of the final round of prospective candidates, the final ten were not told that they were actually on the show until the morning of their "arrest".

There was a prize fund of ?250,000 for Jailbreak. The first prisoner to escape from the prison confines was entitled to ?100,000. The second to escape successfully could win ?50,000, and so on in decreasing order down to ?1,000 for the tenth and final escapee. Prisoners who escaped together shared the prize money, for example the three inmates who escaped first won ?33,333 each.

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