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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
US reality TV turns deadly
Murder In Small Town X website
The show's website already has messages from fans
American TV viewers will experience the latest reality TV phenomenon to battle for their attention when a show based around a small-town murder mystery begins on Tuesday.

A fictional killing is the basis for Murder In Small Town X, a show that has been described as the television version of board game Cleudo.

It is the latest in an increasingly lengthening line of reality TV shows, which combine elements of drama, documentaries, game shows and audience interaction.

More than 20 different programmes are being aired - or are scheduled to start shortly - on American TV.

Suspects

Murder In Small Town X will see 10 contestants, led by a California police sergeant, attempt to collar the killer out of 22 possible suspects.

Set in the town of Sunrise, the suspects are residents from all walks of life - including the mayor, a nightclub owner and the school's head cheerleader.

Dutch Big Brother
Big Brother was first a hit in Holland
Nine of the investigators will get "killed" by the murderer - or eliminated from the show - during its eight-week run on the Fox TV network.

Clues and briefings will be left on the show's website for viewers to help piece together the mystery.

The site's message board already has messages from people discussing which of the residents - listed on the Fox site - might be the murderer before the show has even started.

One message, from a family member of a real murder victim, says murder should not be turned into entertainment.

Reality TV has gone to more and more extreme lengths to hold the public's attention since the phenomenon first appeared several years ago.

Series 7: The Contenders
Reality TV was spoofed in the film Series 7
The successes of Expedition Robinson in Sweden - on which Survivor is based - and Holland's Big Brother alerted broadcasters around the world to the ratings to be had from this new generation of game shows.

Among the other shows about to start on American television are Cannonball Run, in which teams race across the country and Love Cruise, where single contestants are whittled down to a couple.

Yet another, Combat Missions, sees current and former members of the military pitted against each other.

The reality TV genre even spawned its own spoof - the film Series 7: The Contenders, which pretended to be a show where contestants really did have to kill each other.

But not every show has proved a hit.

Germany's Big Diet - described as a Big Brother for obese people - was recently axed because of poor ratings.


In DepthIN DEPTH
BBC News Online's reality TV sectionReality bites
Keep an eye on the reality TV phenomenon
See also:

12 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
US Big Brother evicts knifeman
13 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Plug pulled on 'Fat Brother'
31 May 01 | Film
Series 7's deadly reality
22 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
US TV viewers face more reality
24 May 01 | TV and Radio
Reality TV around the globe
31 May 01 | Talking Point
Are you sick of reality TV?
04 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Reality TV still a hit
12 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Reality TV overload
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