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Maximum reality

With the continued onslaught of reality programs-four more, including the much hyped Survivor II, are launching this month-it's no wonder that caught-on-camera rookie Maximum Exposure is shaping up as a hit.

For the week ended Dec. 24, Paramount Domestic Television's weekly strip Maximum Exposure
grabbed a 2.4 household rating, propelling it to an all-time high, according to Nielsen Media Research. Maximum Exposure, up a hefty 33% from its debut, is a standout in a season when most new efforts haven't seen ratings close to 2, including higher-profile shows like Paramount's own Dr. Laura and Columbia TriStar Television Distribution's Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

Bobbee Gabelmann, Paramount's executive vice president of current programming, confirms that Maximum Exposure
has been picked up for a second year, one of the few rookies to have been picked up so far. CTTD's Judge Hatchett
is another, already clearing 85% of the U.S.

"We love our successes," says Gabelmann. "We have had failures, too," she admits, noting the struggling Dr. Laura, "but we don't hate those shows, we just hate it that viewers didn't catch on."

Yet with Maximum Exposure, "we think the ratings will keep going up," she adds. "People seem to like what they see."

Also impressive, Maximum Exposure
picked up a 1.4 rating among adults 18-34, ranking 23rd among all syndicated series for that hard-to-get but attractive young demographic. Within that bracket, Maximum Exposure
tied established show Xena: Warrior Princess
and bested such veterans as Judge Joe Brown
(1.3), Extra
(1.3) and V.I.P.

As for what makes Maximum Exposure
tick, the fact that "people just want reality on the air is too easy an answer," says Executive Producer Mack Anderson of the show's concept of featuring extreme/outrageous video footage. "It's different from most reality clip shows. When they turn their 30-second clips into a six-minute story, that's a yawner."

In contrast to certain Fox shock specials (World's Craziest, Amazing, Dumbest, etc.), "We try to give viewers credit for being familiar with reality. They've seen all of this before, so we'll pack in 30 stories into one show, and we'll try to make it more entertaining."

Segments that have made the cut at Maximum Exposure
include a profile of the Lin family: "Everyone is completely magnetic. They can attach irons to themselves. I'm completely serious," says Anderson.

He also points out some guy shoving an 18-inch screwdriver up his nose, which "was a thing of beauty," and a TV repairman who can conduct electrical impulses from televisions to set matches on fire.

Maximum Exposure
narrator Cam Brainard often says, "Look at this dude. Is he not crazy or what?" "That's something other shows avoid saying because they're too busy overselling it like 'It's so deadly, it's the deadliest volcano,'" says Anderson. "We don't make fun of everything, but we'll add humor when it's appropriate."