ABC's 'Glass House' compared to 'The Sims' - behind-the-scenes look (Video)
ABC's new competition series, "The Glass House," is "a lot like The Sims" and marks an "evolution" of the reality programming genre thanks to its extensive use of voting by viewers, its creator says.
On the show, which debuts on Monday, June 18, at 10 p.m. ET, a group of 14 people - seven men and seven women - compete for $250,000 by living in a makeshift home with glass walls and cameras in numerous nooks and crannies for 10 weeks.
The contestants compete in physical and mental challenges, which helps them gain clout inside the house and in the eyes of viewers, who can go online and vote to save them or have them go home - via the "limbo box," red, circle elevators that serve as exits.
In the EA online simulation game "The Sims," players can decide what their character, a "Sim," eats and wears, which games or appliances they should use and how they interact with other "Sims." The concept of "The Glass House" is similar, show creator and executive producer Kenny Rosen told OnTheRedCarpet.com.
"America may send chefs into the house - whether they want them to have a fast food chef or a fine dining chef," Rosen said about "The Glass House." "You get to decide what they eat, you get to decide what they wear, you get to decide what games they play and you get to decide who comes and goes."
"It's a lot like '[The] Truman Show,] it's a lot like ... '[The] Hunger Games,' he added, referring to the Jim Carrey movie about a man whose entire life is scripted and filmed without his knowledge and the recent box office smash that stars Jennifer Lawrence as a teenage warrior forced to fight to the death against other youngsters.
Verbal fights are common in reality television - they make for great ratings. "The Glass House" is taking advantage of this - if two people hate each other, viewers may exercise the option of voting online to have them sleep in a private room together, away from a main bedroom that contains several twin beds.
"Yeah, they may get in fights. Who knows?" Rosen said about the contestants. "But they have to monitor their behavior 'cause America is viewing them and judging everything that they do. So you gotta mind your P's and Q's and you gotta make sure that whatever you're doing, America is approving of it."
On the other hand, if two people become besties - or more than besties - viewers can control the game so that they sleep in another private suit - the "Friends' Room." In any case, all the contestants have to share one bathroom stall, so it's probably in their best interest to try to get along.
"These people have a lot of redeeming qualities," Rosen said. "They're really nice people for the most part. We'll see what happens when they get into some confined areas."
Fans can also decide the fates of contestants when the show is not airing, through live webcasts.
"We are going live to the internet seven hours a week and so during these live times, it's 100 percent interactive and you can control what the contestants are doing on a live immediate basis," Rosen said. "The viewers can decide whether they want them to have yoga lessons or have a drill instructor in the house. They vote for two minutes and up to the limbo doors comes a yoga instructor."
Rosen had worked on and off on the CBS reality show "Big Brother" as a story editor and producer between 2001 and 2007. The network had recently tried to obtain a temporary restraining order to block ABC from airing "The Glass House," claiming that it had copied key elements from "Big Brother." ABC has denied all wrongdoing.
A U.S. district judge denied CBS' request, adding that the new show was not likely to have "any impact" on "Big Brother" and that the audience participation element in "The Glass House" is likely to make it different. Rosen said the legal issues have marked a "distraction" but that producers had moved forward with the project on schedule.
"It's the first show where we're giving complete control to the viewers," he said. "America has a 100 percent say who wins the grand prize, a quarter million dollars."
The contestants have already established online Twitter profiles for the show. Stephanie, a 32-year-old scientist from Boston, is already asking fans for fashion advice.
"May have a wardrobe problem later today," she Tweeted. "Better to show panty lines, or go commando? #TeamSteph"
Rosen said the contestants will be allowed to send Tweets while filming the show but that they will not see all of the fans' replies "on immediate basis."
Contestants will learn how the viewers have voted by watching the results on a 103-inch monitor in a special screening room and listening to a computerized voice, which brings to mind "Star Trek" or Apple's iPhone narrator, Siri.
"It's super high-tech," Rosen said. "It's the evolution of the genre. We've moved it into the social media age where America can vote and have instant results on what's happening in the house."
Reporting by Maria Sansone, corresponent for KABC Television's entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).