Fox's 'Wall' takes shape


Fox is getting bent out of shape for its next competition series.

The network has given a series order to FremantleMedia North America's "Hole in the Wall," the "human Tetris" game show whose foreign incarnations have become a YouTube hit.

In the show, participants contort their bodies to fit through precut walls flying toward them on a track. If they don't fit through shapes, they're pushed off the track into a pit of water below.

Fox has picked up 13 hours (which could be divided into 26 half-hours) for next season. Fox entertainment president Mike Darnell initially ordered a pilot but has decided to go straight to series after the show took off in several foreign territories.

"The more we watched the other versions, the more we thought it was worth picking up as a series," Darnell said. "I think its success is going to be instantaneous. It's as simple as it gets. It's one of those shows I think is going to be very addictive. You think, 'I'm not going to watch this,' and a half-hour later you're still watching it."

The series was launched on Japan's Fuji TV in 2006 and quickly became a international hit. FremantleMedia produces versions in 16 territories, including Australia, Russia and Denmark.

Clips of the show have been popular on YouTube, with its videos registering millions of user views each.

"It looks like nothing else on television," FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz said. "You can watch it, have a lot of fun, then come back 10 minutes later. You get immediate payoff and it's very, very funny."

"Wall" is one of a few Japanese-inspired shows coming soon to network television. ABC will air "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" in the summer, where contestants compete in challenges overseas. ABC also will air the obstacle course series "Wipeout," which takes a cue from the 1980s Japanese hit "Takeshi's Castle."

In each episode of "Wall," two teams of three will try to survive the onrushing walls — at first individually, then as a group. With each round, the shapes become more difficult to fit through and the walls speed up.

For the U.S. version, Fox and FremantleMedia have added a cash prize. Overseas versions were often played by contestants for fun, but American audiences respond stronger to unscripted shows when there's tangible stakes. Darnell also is toying with the idea of increasing the height of the platform, so players will fall a greater distance into the water (and he might switch what substance the players fall into for each level).

Commentators will lend humorous play-by-play, portraying the game as a faux sport — like in Fox's comedy feature "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story."

"You can do it a lot of very different ways and still keep the essence of the show," Frot-Coutaz said. "There's a lot of things you can do to stunt the show." (partialdiff)