New rules as 'Road' returns for MTV

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MTV is resurrecting its reality show "Road Rules," but the rules of the game have changed.

Set to premiere in January, the new season will incorporate interactive elements, among them the ability of viewers to determine through an online vote which cast member is eliminated each week, putting them in control of which six people remain behind the wheel.

"This is MTV's first reality show where viewers are actually casting the show and rendering the verdict about who they liked most and least," said Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTVN Music Channels Group and president of Logo.

The show, which debuted in 1995, spawning from the network's first reality show, "The Real World," chronicles the journey of six strangers stripped of all their money and traveling to locations guided only by a set of clues and their mission to arrive successfully. The series ended in 2004. This installment finds six of the most infamous former cast members as its initial passenger crew.

In essence, the real-time version presents its action through two episodes -- one on-air and one on MTV's broadband video channel Overdrive.

After the new broadcast episode airs, viewers will vote for one of two cast members -- deemed the "weakest" by the rest of the cast -- to enter an elimination face-off to air on MTV Overdrive. At the same time, viewers will determine the nominee's challenger from an Internet replacement board of potential male and female challengers, which lives on MTV.com, along with video packages, personal blogs and statistics and background on each potential replacement.

Both will duel for a seat back in the "Road Rules" RV through an online challenge, with viewers not knowing the winner until the next on-air episode.

Additional interactive elements centered on the show include posted blogs and personal video diaries from cast members after each mission along with recorded message updates for mobile content.

"Viewers of reality shows have always been impassioned -- just go to the message boards, and you'll see this," said Jonathan Murray, co-creator and executive producer of the show since its creation in 1995 and the chairman and president of Bunim-Murray Prods. "These aren't actors reading lines. These are real people, and they very much represent the MTV viewers. The new 'Road Rules' takes that passion and allows viewers to channel the outcome of the show."

Murray elaborated on the challenges involved producing a series in real time that he described as "two shows going on, a whole bunch of community interaction and lots of stuff happening on MTV Overdrive."

"Normally these shows are taped months in advance, with it taking days to edit each episode," said Murray, who had been challenged by Graden to come up with an idea compelling enough to bring the show back to life. "But MTV is the only network that would do something like this -- to truly walk a high wire without a net."

For Graden, it was the combination of elements -- being shot in real time, not knowing who will be in the cast, shooting both the on-air and Web episode simultaneously and turning it around in a seven-day window -- that had him hooked.

"Our philosophy is that all these new-media possibilities are liberating, and nobody knows how the world shakes out," Graden said of the interactive elements that allow viewers to affect the action. "All I know is that in the same way users are increasing their music playlists, ultimately we would love for them to have the experience of programming MTV, which is what this show allows."
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