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Nets get more real

One reality series will get there by rocket, another perhaps by mule, but both are headed for the small screen next season.

After negotiations with all Big Four networks, Survivor producer Mark Burnett is taking his ambitious reality project, Destination Mir, to NBC for a mere $40 million and a share of the ad revenue. NBC, which missed out on the reality gold rush, had been desperately seeking the next big reality project. FOX thought the show was coming its way, but Burnett's desire for a piece of the ad pie did not sit well with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, sources say.

CBS countered with another new reality project of its own, Race Around the World. The series, which is slated for next summer, will send eight couples (husband/wife, brother/sister, father/daughter, other/ other) on a trek through 11 cities around the world in 30 days. The show is produced by movie director Jerry Bruckheimer and former Cops producer Bertram Van Munster. It will require contestants to overcome three obstacles in each city. The eight couples will be on very "strict" budgets and will have to fend for themselves in many instances, including travel arrangements, CBS executives say.

Destination Mir, which will send one contestant to Russia's Mir space station after a grueling competition at the Russian training facility Star City, will air on NBC next fall. It will be a weekly series of 13 to 15 episodes, including the finale in which three finalists will be suited up for space and one chosen to ride in a Soyuz spacecraft to the station. NBC will then follow the contestant into space nightly in prime time. Are NBC executives afraid of what could happen?

"Well, of course," says NBC Entertainment President Garth Ancier, who approved the project. "All of the shows Mark does involve a fair amount of risk. The fact is, no one is pretending it is not risky. It is air travel. It is inherently risky. But the Russians do have a good track record in launching rockets.about the same as NASA's, I'm told."

Regardless, contestants will be signing all kinds of legal waivers, and a few insurance policies will be taken out.