Rob Lowe's 'Potomac Fever' gaining reality on E!

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2010

Rob Lowe has found a home for his new reality series about young wannabe politicos looking to climb the ranks in Washington.

Although recent evidence suggests that Washington might not be the best place to set a reality series (read: lousy ratings), E! thinks it's the perfect complement to its lineup of reality programs, which includes the dysfunctional famous-for-being-famous family show "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and the spinoff "Kourtney & Khloé Take Miami," as well as the food-compulsion show "What's Eating You."

Lowe is producing the show with the company 44 Blue, whose senior VP of production, Stuart Zwagil, said in an interview that he thought Washington was "ripe" for this show.

Recent history would seem to disagree. So far: Bravo's "Top Chef" opened with the smallest crowd since the first season in March 2006; MTV's long-running "Real World" franchise limped out of Washington with the lowest-rated season in the show's history; TLC's "D.C. Cupcakes" was no ratings barn-burner; and while Bravo noted that "Real Housewives of D.C." enjoyed the biggest audience for a "Real Housewives" first season, it's far from a slam-dunk for renewal.

FYI: 44 Blue is behind MSNBC's behind-the-scenes prison series, "Lockup," Spike TV's "U.S. Navy: Pirate Hunters" and A&E's "L.A. Gang Unit."

When the project first came to light in June, it seemed right up Lowe's alley -- he loves playing at being a Washington power broker. Lowe played the White House deputy communications director on NBC's political drama "The West Wing" and was a senator on the ABC soap "Brothers & Sisters." These days, he's playing an unbalanced government auditor on NBC's low-rated "Parks and Recreation."

"They live and love at the center of world power," Lowe said of those who would participate in "Potomac Fever." "I can't wait to tell their stories."

But of course, no story about Lowe and Washington and power would be complete without mentioning that Lowe once aggressively campaigned for 1988 Dem presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and -- while attending the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta -- picked up two females in a nightclub and changed the course of his career for a while. (Didn't do Dukakis any good, either.)

"I've always had an affinity for the adventures of young Washingtonians," Lowe told Variety back in June.

Mining disaster PR?

How lucky for Viacom that all 33 trapped miners in Chile were pulled out this week alive: The company's Spike TV cable network had already ordered a reality series about a coal mine in West Virginia, and had decided that it would be smart PR to hold off making the announcement until it knew the outcome of the dramatic rescue effort.

"It didn't take a tragedy, and then a miracle, to get us excited about this," Sharon Levy, executive VP of original programming at Spike said -- ghoulishly, we think -- in Thursday's announcement.

The 10-episode, one-hour series is scheduled to debut next April, executive-produced by Thom Beers -- the guy behind such other high-risk-on-the-job shows as "Deadliest Catch," "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men."

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