Oprah Winfrey’s Network OWN transmits from January the new community reality program Million Dollar Neighbourhood (produced by Force Four Entertainment for the Canadian arm of OWN). The program is a social experiment in which 100 families in a neighbourhood of small village Aldergrove take the challenge to save money together over 10 weeks to a total sum of $1 million. Each family followed by camera has its own financial problems and get unique tasks to fulfil, but there also are collective challenges like a collective garage sale. During the series viewers get useful insights by participants and financial experts, about the cost of storage of forgotten stuff, tips to save more money for hard times and tips to break the cycle of debts.
It’s not the first community reality format related to a collective financial activity. Previously in 2008 Flemish broadcaster aired the energy saving format Onder Hoogspanning XL (High Voltage XL). The purpose of the program was to let villagers replace ordinary bulbs by energy efficient light bulbs. At the end of the program, the old lamps were transformed into a work of art.
The community tv-trend shows 2 themes: ‘loosing weight together’ and ‘neighbours together’ to strive for quality of life in the neighbourhood.
Loosing weight together in community reality formats:
The Biggest Loser: Special Edition (spin-off The Biggest Loser NBC in 2004) a team of obese people competing against another team, living on a ranch working with coaches. In The biggest loser the one who looses the most (weight) is the winner USA
*in Switzerland SF1 started the docu-soap Ein Dorf speckt ab (A village is loosing weight) in 2007 in which citizens of small village Eglisau were trying to loose weight
*in the German local version Jedes Kilo zählt-Ein Insel speckt ab (An isle is loosing weight) in 2008 (KabelEins) 1% of the citizens of the isle Langeoog took the opportunity to loose weight order to pursue collective weight loss
*in Holland expert Dr. Frank van Berkum (also participant in SBS6’s De Afvallers (weight losers) XXL) started in 2010 a community campaign in daily newspaper De Telegraaf De grootste Afvalrace ooit (The greatest weight loser ever) with the target to loose weight together: 1 million kg by 100.000 participants.
Neighbours together in community reality formats:
*the UK started in 2000 with Charlie’s garden army (BBC2 later BBC1) in which female gardener Charlie Dimmock together with local volunteers transformed community land to public gardens
also public places were transformed to vegetable garden in tv-program Llink in natura (2009) of former pubcaster Llink Holland
*Dutch pubcaster NCRV aired Beste buurtplan (2008) in which 35 ambassadors of a neighbourhood competed (by weekly challenges with local people) to win a cash prize of 25.000 Euro to start up a public activity in their own community
(since 2008) the negative title The ugliest house on the block (WE) meant a positive activity of a community to renovate a house and garden in their street to upgrade their neighbourhood. USA
Probably community formats will increase on television now the social trend is to set up local communities to get through an economic crisis.