Reality TV Show to Choose ‘Scholar’

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First, there was “Survivor.” Next was “The Bachelor.” Soon, another reality-television show will join the long list of such fare—except this one will be of special interest to educators and students.

“The Scholar,” which is scheduled to air on ABC next spring, will pit a group of 15 smart, telegenic high school seniors against one another to win a free four-year college education at a school of their choice. The prize includes tuition, room and board, and other costs such as books and study aids.

The 15 contestant spots will not be limited to financially needy students. Rather, they will be chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants and will be diverse in race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, and geography.

The students will match wits and battle it out on tests covering areas such as leadership, community service, and creativity. The one-hour show, producers say, will feature tips on how to get into college.

Steve Martin

“The Scholar” already has star power. One of the show’s five executive producers is the actor and writer Steve Martin.

Shooting for “The Scholar,” which will be set at a yet-to-be-disclosed university, will start in January.

Some in the college-admissions field, however, have expressed reservations about “The Scholar.”

The National Association for College Admission Counseling refused to allow the show’s producers to recruit students at college fairs sponsored by the Alexandria, Va.-based organization.

Joyce E. Smith, NACAC’s executive director, said she doesn’t know the tasks the students have to perform and whether the show will accurately portray the students and their families.

“I applaud the end goal [of the show], but it’s television,” she said. “So you have to build up the drama.”

Yet basing a reality show on going to college is a natural choice, because the decision is a milestone in many Americans’ lives, said Joan Stein, an executive producer of the show.

Drama is inherent in the process, she said, and drama makes for good television.

Vol. 24, Issue 13, Page 12

Published in Print: November 24, 2004, as Reality TV Show to Choose ‘Scholar’

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