ABC navigates 'Crash Course'

Net follows CBS in developing auto-reality project

ABC is getting into the auto-reality race.

The network is joining forces with the producers of "Hell's Kitchen" for a project in which contestants navigate an outrageous obstacle course. The project, titled "Crash Course," will shoot a pilot this weekend and is seen as a potential companion for the network's summer hit "Wipeout."

If the "Crash" description sounds familiar, that's because CBS is developing a similar project, McG's "Thunder Road." The ABC version will have couples compete for a prize and will take a comedic tone. Orlando Jones ("MadTV") and Dan Cortese ("Veronica's Closet") are attached as hosts.

"We do things with cars that you would never imagine," exec producer Arthur Smith said. "Yet our show is about the people, not the cars, and nothing brings out the worst in people than putting somebody in a passenger seat."

Added fellow executive producer Kent Weed, "Any hazard you can imagine on the road -- weather-related, falling rocks, anything -- it's that and much more."

ABC is enthusiastic about "Course," which is on a shortlist of reality projects in consideration for its summer and fall lineups.

"It sits at that intersection between fantasy and disaster," ABC co-head of alternative series John Saade said. "Everyone sort of fantasizes about being able to drive like crazy, to do things that you can't do while sitting in traffic. Some of this is a blast, but you're occasionally skidding out of control."

Although bound to draw comparisons to "Wipeout," Saade said the shows would feel very different to viewers.

"You spend a lot of time with the couples in the car on 'Crash,' " Saade said. "There's action, but there's also strategizing and quieter moments."

Smith and Weed also are working on Season 2 of "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," which will return to ABC in the summer. The format will change a bit, increasing the action with three Japanese-style game-show challenges during each episode instead of two.

"We learned so much from doing the first season that we're applying to the next one," Smith said.