Fox cable arm FX show to choose a US president

MUMBAI: Now this is one concept that could have massive potential, especially in a politics-driven country such as ours. Imagine Indian TV viewers being able to select a president from among a list offered on a TV show. That is exactly what the News Corp-owned cable network FX is planning with American Candidate.

Inspired by the huge success of American Idol, the Yankee version of the UK Fox hit Pop Idol, both of which turned unknown talent into overnight pop stars, FX is reportedly timing American Candidate to reach its climatic episodes a short while ahead of the US presidential polls in 2004. American Candidate will allow FX viewers to choose a "people's" nominee for president around the 4th of July in 2004. This will be just about the time that Republicans and Democrats are preparing for their national conventions. In a live episode, viewers will determine the winning candidate from three finalists, reports say.

FX, which announced the project yesterday, has teamed up with documentary veteran RJ Cutler (The War Room), director Jay Roach (Austin Powers) and producer Tom Lassally (Totally Hidden Video) to mount the ambitious two-year endeavour that is expected to kick off early next year.

"Just as American Idol went searching for undiscovered musical talent, American Candidate will be on the hunt for untapped political and leadership skill," Cutler has been quoted as saying.

Applications will be accepted from naturalised US citizens who will be 35 years old by 20 January, 2005. The candidates must produce a petition signed by 50 supporters. The process begins early next year A panel of experts will choose 100 semifinalists, two from each state, who will be introduced to viewers in the series' first episode.

Episodes will be broadcast live from locations like Mount Rushmore, Gettysburg and the Statue of Liberty, where the candidates will compete with such things as debates and stump speeches. Viewers will gradually eliminate candidates.

Cutler, Lassally and Roach previously developed a similar concept at HBO called Candidate 2012, which did not go forward. That project was conceived much differently, as a straight documentary about one young political wannabe on a quest for the presidency in 2012.

Looking homewards, at present, the team at Star Plus is busy working on the Indian version of Pop Idol. If the Desi avatar gets the kind of ratings its US elder cousin got (the finale of American Idol drew an average audience of 22.5 million), Indian viewers may yet get to see a "made for TV 'good' politician" campaigning for votes AND TV ratings at some point.

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