ESPN, FX, Golf Swing at Reality

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ESPN is about to launch its latest venture into reality programming, while FX and The Golf Channel are also readying more genre entries.

FX will put the pedal to the medal with an auto racing show, currently titled NASCAR: Drivers Unscripted, following the lives of top racers and their families leading up and through Nextel Cup Series races.

Golf will go the transformation route, giving four duffers a chance to not only upgrade their swing, but their on-course look and etiquette on The Natural Golf Makeover Challenge.

ESPN'S 'DREAM JOB'

The series moves by FX and Golf come as ESPN nears the Feb. 22 debut of Dream Job in which a dozen contestants, whittled down from more than 10,000 hopefuls, will vie for a one-year contract to be a SportsCenter anchor.

Hosted by ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, the one-hour show, shot live in front of a studio audience, will air on six consecutive Sundays at 10 p.m., before concluding with a two-hour finale on March 28 at 9 p.m.

During the series, contestants ranging in age from 21 to 40 will be put through a variety of "on-air" tasks, such as sideline reporting, anchoring, play by play and one-on-one interviews.

A panel of celebrity judges will vote, as will viewers at ESPN.com or with wireless text messaging from Verizon Communications Inc., as the field narrows with each installment.

This contest series complements ESPN's other ventures into reality with The Season, which follows teams or athletes during particular campaigns, and Streetball: The And One Street Tape Zone Tour, which followed a touring band of ballers.

FX DRIVERS ARE STARS

Scheduled to premiere in May, FX's eight-part NASCAR series will give viewers a look at nine drivers, their families and teams, primarily focusing on their lives away from the tracks. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeremy Mayfield, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Tony Raines, Brian Vickers, Kenny Wallace and Rusty Wallace will be featured in multiple segments over the show's run.

"NASCAR drivers are fearless, larger-than-life stars who participate in a high-risk sport," FX Networks CEO Peter Liguori said in a statement. "This series aims to explore the dramatic, sometimes funny and entertaining day-to-day lives of these colorful personalities."

Flame Television chairman and CEO Tony Krantz (24, Sports Night), and Scott Messick (Survivor) will serve as executive producers.

GOLF MAKEOVER

The series will complement the network's coverage of the motor sport: this year, FX will present three Nextel Cup races, 13 NASCAR Busch Series races, and 16 Nextel Cup Happy Hours. FX executives said they began conversations with NASCAR about the development of such a series in September 2002.

On its eight-episode show Makeover Challenge, Comcast Corp.-owned Golf will pair with Natural Golf Corp. to provide the four players, who will be drawn from live auditions held across the U.S., beginning in late February.

With game improvement as the ultimate goal, each contestant will get the help they need with all aspects of the sport along the way. The show is slated to debut in June.

"We'll have some fun with the makeovers, but we think viewers will be very impressed when they see the progress each contestant will make in his or her game," Bob Greenway, The Golf Channel's senior vice president of programming and production, said in a prepared statement.

The series marks Golf's second reality gambit. Last year, the network ran 12 hours of The Big Break, a show depicting a series of golf skills and eliminations that netted the winner an exemption into four Canadian Tour events in 2004 that will be televised by the network.

PAX GETS IN ACT

A network spokesman said Golf is accepting applications through March 1 for a similarly themed series it expects to bow in the fourth quarter.

Pax TV last week said it, too, has found a new angle in the unscripted reality show vein.

Speed Dating, set to premiere on Pax in March, pits eight single men and eight single women in a ballroom and, through a series of lightning rounds in which each ranks each other, they're pared down to two men and two women.

Finally, as befits the family-oriented channel, the most compatible couple "will go on a 'real' date, beginning with an engaging activity of bowling, dancing or shopping and ending with a romantic sit-down dinner for two at a five-star restaurant."

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