Mark Burnett Is Taking Reality TV Into Space With Virgin Galactic

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

virgin galacticThe world of reality TV has absolutely branched out from its initial incarnation of suburban life occasionally resembling reality. Once The Real World became Big Brother and Survivor, there was nowhere to go but “really far out there” for TV producers. On the opposite end of the oddity spectrum from Lifetime’s I Killed My BFF, however, is reality show mastermind Mark Burnett, who is reportedly shopping around a pitch that would pit a bunch of people against each other to win a chance to fly into space aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. As much as I’d like to wave a dismissive hand and make a noise resembling a sigh, I’ve kind of wanted to see a space-related reality show for years now, ever since Burnett first starting promoting the idea over a decade ago. The biggest question is, will it ever happen?

Studio insiders say that several networks already have their wallets out and a small bidding war has begun over the project. Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, the most fun-loving billionaire I can think of, is planning on taking the first Virgin Galactic flight with his family on December 25 of this year. Should the series come to fruition, it would air after that first flight, and contestants would go through rounds of challenges and whatnot in order to secure a seat on the second flight, which is planned for later next year.

With celebrity backers already including Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and (ugh) Justin Bieber, these space flights cost around $250,000 a ticket, and the show will probably be one of the only chances for a middle-class citizen to hitch a ride. Each trip will take around two hours, traveling the estimated 62 miles to the Kármán line, where outer space officially begins. At that point, passengers will have a few minutes to experience total weightlessness, all while taking some amazing selfies with the curvature of Earth in the background. Honestly, I’d be more interested in the reality show if the flight the winner took had one of the celebrities on it. Tom Hanks could be on it, and with the magic of TV, Hanks’ Jim Lovell could also be a passenger. Sweeps week!

Back in 2001, Burnett saw his plans dashed for the competition show Destination Mir. Originally to air on NBC, the series would have followed the cosmonaut training of a group of Americans at Russia’s Star City compound, with one lucky winner sent up to Mir during a live finale. Of course, that was the same year that Mir came down. He tried a couple of years later to jumpstart Destination: Space, with the International Space Station as a goal, but the 2003 Columbia disaster derailed those plans, so to speak.

We’re already interested in the Mars One reality show, and while we never realized reality television required a Space Age, it’s better than watching yet another singing or dancing competition. (Though watching Bill Nye on Dancing With the Stars has its perks.)