Turns out there are people who still want to be Survivors. Though media watchers predicted the CBS series would falter following 9/11, you wouldn't know it by the Central Texans who showed up at KEYE studios last Wednesday -- many before the 6am start time -- to make a play for their 15 minutes of fame.
The local affiliate offered preliminary on-camera auditions for season five of the reality competition (location TBA). Contestants were given two minutes of video time to make themselves memorable to Survivor producers. Housewives, mothers, a former postulant, students, former high tech workers, and retired military personnel were among the contestant hopefuls I saw during the hour I popped in on the auditions. Some stammered, some blabbered, some had traveled the world, and others were itching to get their passport stamped for the first time. All were ready to outlast, outwit, and outplay their way to the big prize and were willing to endure 30-plus days without the comforts of home to do so.
Even if Philip Harris isn't selected for the next round of auditions, he walked away richer. He bet his pals at work that he would endure the two-hour wait to tape his audition and picked up $500 for his effort. The KEYE crew wasn't so lucky. Though the auditions were set to end at 6pm, the crew ended up staying till 10:30pm to accommodate the last rush of Survivor wannabes. In all, the crew taped 360 potential contestants. Now that's what I call outdoing yourself.
It may be taboo to produce a movie-of-the-week based on the events of 9/11, but a respectful documentary is not out of the question. Or so it seems, if the upcoming specials are any indication. The Discovery Channel starts the ball rolling with New York's Firefighters: The Brotherhood of 9/11. The special is an intimate look at Rescue 3, the mission of which is to handle the most difficult rescues, including fires. Eight members of the "Big Blue" unit were lost on 9/11, and the documentary, filmed a month after the attack, captures how the surviving firefighters and the families of the fallen men are coping with the loss. The Brotherhood of 9/11 airs March 8, 8pm, on the Discovery Channel.
Sept. 11 Specials
A two-hour special, 9/11, airs on CBS on March 10. The special features footage by French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet, who were working on a documentary in Lower Manhattan when the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. The previously unseen footage captures events inside the buildings as rescue workers entered the building. (An interview with the Naudet brothers about their experience at ground zero is in the March issue of Vanity Fair.)
Insiders describe the Naudet footage as "dramatic, awesome, and moving." Yet several organizations working for 9/11 victims are reportedly uneasy about the special, fearful that the new footage will traumatize families still wounded from the events.
Oscar winner Robert DeNiro hosts the CBS special. DeNiro has been active in relief efforts and lives in TriBeCa, one of the areas damaged by the devastation. The Uniformed Firefighters Association Scholarship Fund will receive proceeds from the broadcast. 9/11 airs on March 10 at 8pm.
Cable network HBO will wait till Memorial Day weekend to air their 9/11 special, titled In Memoriam. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani narrates.
A little behind on what's hot this Oscar season? The Sundance Channel's Anatomy of a Scene series features examinations of Oscar hopefuls Gosford Park, Memento, and Monster's Ball. Writers, designers, and actors from each of the films are interviewed as part of a behind-the-scenes look at how each film came together. Airdates listed are episode premiere dates. Check local listings for encore screenings. Gosford Park, March 10 at 4am; Memento, March 17 at 6:30pm; Monster's Ball, March 16 at 6pm.
That Time of the Month
This month the Sundance Channel will also present Spotlight on Robert Altman. The special looks at the career of the versatile filmmaker followed by screenings of three of his feature films: The Long Goodbye, Short Cuts, and Vincent & Theo. Spotlight on Robert Altman airs March 10, 18, and 26, followed by Altman's featured works. Multiple encores of the Altman spotlight and his films occur throughout March. Check local listings.
It's 31 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies in March. That means 339 Oscar-nominated movies, shown commercial-free over 31 days. Check local listings for details.
In case you don't have it on your calendar, the 74th Annual Academy Awards ceremony airs March 24 on ABC. The 8th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony airs March 10, 7pm, on TNT.