Exclusive photos: 12 contestants are living in a fake city for new reality series
'2025' is being dubbed a real-life 'Truman Show' and is poised to revolutionize the television industry.
A few months ago, construction began on a new city in Israel just south of Tel Aviv. Except this wasn't just any city. It was one made solely for TV. Think of it like a real life "Truman Show," the 1998 movie in which Jim Carrey resides in a fictitious town and his life is being beamed around the world for everyone to watch.
Keshet, an Israeli broadcaster, was building a massive set for a new competition show that's hoping to revolutionize reality television. Sure, we've all seen strangers live in a custom-built house under constant surveillance for "Big Brother." We've seen the same thing done on an island each season on "Survivor." But never had such an elaborate set been constructed to create an entire city for contestants to live in. What's more, they will be spending approximately two months living in this fake city until a winner is crowned in mid-April.
Late in 2018, a trailer for the show leaked online and was quickly removed. Photos appeared on social media and then quickly vanished. Hollywood trade papers called the top-secret project "ambitious" as dribs and drabs of information slowly emerged.
The secret city was finally unveiled this week as 12 contestants moved in and it was broadcast all across Israel. The show is called "2025" and hints at a "near future" lifestyle. Keshet is expected to broadcast episodes several nights a week, but die-hard fans can snoop on the residents 24/7 with a live feed online.
You can get a glimpse of what the city looks like in this Instagram video, promoting an episode:
Here's how the show works....
Every new contestant in the city received a smart watch loaded with 12,000 shekels (approximately $3,283) to use during the game. Everything in the city has a price: from the food they eat to a comfortable bed to sleep on. Any purchases that the contestants make in the city will be updated in real time on a giant scoreboard located above city hall.
Contestants can choose from various sleeping options – a park bench (free), sleeping pods (cheap), a house they can share with roommates (mid-price) and a luxury hotel suite (quite expensive). Unlike "Big Brother" and "Survivor," where contestants are cut off from the outside world, the players in the "2025" city can communicate with friends and loved ones, and even go online. But it all comes with a price tag. Each week, the contestant with the least amount of money will be kicked out, and a new contestant will enter the city.
To replenish their bank accounts for the game, they earn money during their stay by completing specific tasks. Fans watching the show from home can also grant money to their favorite contestants.
The show premiered on Sunday night and has been watched by nearly a million viewers since it launched. Its debut was the most-watched prime time show of the night. The first episode had 576,000 viewers, nearly triple that of its competitors – an Israeli adaptation of "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" and a Premier League soccer game.
On the first episode, contestants entered the town and had a drink at the local bar. They then began to wander around and get a first glimpse of some of the city's facilities: a hotel, a restaurant and a fashion boutique – where they discover that all the clothes they brought from home were put up for auction.
All of the businesses in the city are run by robots, so the show has kind of a "Westworld" vibe to it as well. One of the most interesting parts of the debut episode was a resident named Dominic pouring his heart out to the robot concierge at the hotel. In another exchange, a couple of the contestants couldn't contain their laughter when interacting with the robot bartender as seen in this brief clip below:
While the show is debuting in Israel, an American version is likely to make its way to our shores soon. Many of Keshet's series – including the popular "Homeland" – have been adapted for U.S. audiences. Their dramatic thriller "When Heroes Fly," which debuted on Netflix last month, has become an instant hit.
Each spring, Keshet hosts an annual TV conference where the biggest names in television – from HBO and Sony to Showtime and AMC – come to Jerusalem to see what the Israeli broadcaster has coming down the pipeline. The new "2025" competition show is sure to be the talk of the conference, when they gather in March. The genre-changing series is of interest to American networks, who are constantly on the lookout for shows that will stand out from other reality competitions.
For more on how American television networks are looking to Israel for inspiration for new shows, we attended last year's conference where we caught up with Keshet executive Karni Ziv. You can listen to our interview below:
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