Where ancient tradition meets modernity, there’s Reality TV…
For a long time, Eastern Europe was a place where people went to sell their TV shows at discounted prices in the relatively undeveloped markets of the region. Today things are changing – and rather than buying cheap Western shows, people in the region are more likely to buy their programming from Turkey or even Russia. More interestingly, with the first generation of the region’s own Intellectual Property, local production houses like Paprika or Media Factor have offices all over the region, and specialize in developing local formats like “LOOK WHO’S COOKING”. These formats are coming from inside the region, whose growing confidence is now being felt overseas.
Eastern Europe is a region where ancient tradition clashes with modernity. Romania is no different, and its famously underdeveloped rural sector clashes with its capital, Bucharest’s, claim to be taken seriously as a modern European city (it was from impoverished rural Romania that not only Count Dracula, but the recent European horsemeat scandal arose, for instance). This local conflict has inspired the creation of the country’s first international mega hit show.
MISS COUNTRY GIRL is a Romanian TV format that’s been sold all over the world — and is the first ever Romanian to be sold in Asia. A Thai version’s already been produced in April of this year, and the show has also been sold to Australia and to the United States, where Time Warner have bought the show, dubbing it as “Cinderella meets Pretty Woman.”
The show is about turning a “country girl” into a “cover girl”, with the girls competing for various rural prizes and then ending up in the city where they compete for a cash reward.
The audiences gain empathy with the girls as we go into their homes, meet their families, and understand their rural lives. The central action of the show follows whether or not the girls can manage the transformation from rural to glamorous city life, and thus entails the rags to riches storyline that is the spine of every telenovela and fairy story in history.
The successful new wave of Eastern European formats have been necessarily simple in order to compete effectively. The continent’s format powerhouse is the UK, where the value of TV formats was around 475 thousand US dollars in 2011 alone. In such a wealthy atmosphere, TV producers can afford to experiment with more sophisticated ideas and try out new and interesting types of format. Eastern Europe does not have that luxury, so the region has had to go for the simplest possible ideas, with the most originality possible. Reality contest formats have been around for fifteen years now, and audiences have seen it all, so originality is key. Anyone can make a singing contest show, and practically every country has a “Got Talent.” In order for new formats to succeed, they have to offer something different.
There’s another reason why the show has been so successful. MISS COUNTY GIRL is a makeover show at its heart, allowing us to tap that most human of all rituals – finding a mate ! The idea of beauty contests to show off beautiful girls is one that’s been celebrated since the dawn of time, and reality TV has provided this age old idea with a new platform that can reach large numbers of people.
This is one of the most important factors in accounting for the show’s success with audiences – it’s a simple talent contest that hides within it an important evolutionary necessity.