Do you want to be on TV, but don't have the talent, time, connections, or money? Then reality TV might be the way to go. Still in need of a shortcut? Just fill out an application at RTVStar.com, a talent clearinghouse that offers casting directors a searchable database of aspiring Survivors and Apprentices. Bob talks to the website's creator, Brian Ostrovsky.
BOB GARFIELD: If you're looking for fame, adventure or a new house but you haven't got the talent, the time, or the money, there's a shortcut to your dreams: reality television. And if you're looking for a shortcut to reality TV, there's RTVStar.com. It's a kind of central clearinghouse for aspiring "Survivors" and "Bachelors" and "Apprentices" who can create a profile with a common application, a short video and some photos, all searchable by casting directors in need of the real deal. It's the brainchild of Brian Ostrovsky, and he joins us now. Brian, welcome to our own little reality show.
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: Hey, I'm glad to be here, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay. So was there [CHUCKLES] some sort of "eureka" moment where you just realized that the world needs a central clearinghouse for reality TV wannabes?
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: There really was. It started when I was going through the application process to "The Apprentice 2." I was like most Americans, no idea what was involved. I learned that there is a 14-page application, there's a video and between life and work, didn't get it done. My wife subsequently applied to a couple of shows on cable - you know, make over your dining room-type shows - and, well, we never heard back, we didn't get cast, all of those things. And it was just one night in January, I'm watching "American Idol," and it hit me. There are a lot of Americans like us that there was no easy way to go through the application process, and RTVStar.com was born.
BOB GARFIELD: Members fill out a written application but they also upload a short video of themselves. On average, do you think that people sort of get it or are they making wildly [LAUGHS] wrong decisions in what they submit?
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: I think people right now generally try to do too much or try to be what the casting pro or the network wants them to be. Unfortunately, you can't keep that up 24 hours a day so it's really not the right approach. What they really are looking for is interesting people being themselves. Now, not everyone is interesting so unfortunately not everyone will be on television, but they want to see what makes you worthy of being watched.
BOB GARFIELD: We actually have an excerpt of one submission. Can you tell me what it is we're about to hear?
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: It's two gentlemen from West Hollywood talking about each other and talking about why they love "The Amazing Race" and what it means to them, which is really an endearing quality because it shows that they're passionate about the show that they want to be on. [CLIP FROM THE APPLICATION BEGINS]
MALE REALITY SHOW APPLICANT: And I will admit, I get down to the last five minutes of the show, see people racing towards the finish and it's like, oh, my God, my God, get there! Hurry! Faster!
SECOND FIRST MALE REALITY SHOW APPLICANT: And - and, you know, we - we just kind of, you know, keep thinking about what we would be like in certain situations that have been represented on the show and - [OVERTALK]
FIRST MALE REALITY SHOW APPLICANT: We would kick ass! [END OF CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Is there a type? Is there someone who's just more likely to be a reality TV wannabe than somebody else?
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: We really expected to see a tight grouping of, you know, of the younger generation, but it's been across the board. Now, we know that in particular college students want to be on reality TV. It's easy. You just look at MTV and you look at "The Real World" and you see that demographic represented more vibrantly than the older demographic. However, there is significant presence within the 40 and 50-something, the Boomers, who say, "You know what? I can do 'Survivor.' I'm tough enough. I can do 'The Amazing Race.' I want to travel the world." [CLIP OF APPLICANT VIDEO]
MALE REALITY SHOW APPLICANT: I just turned 40. I want to show these young whippersnappers that we still can do something.
SECOND FIRST MALE REALITY SHOW APPLICANT: [LAUGHS] I've hit that middle-aged mark and I really want to make sure that I make a great representation of the 40-year-old crowd - now.
FIRST MALE REALITY SHOW APPLICANT: Put us on your show.
SECOND FIRST MALE REALITY SHOW APPLICANT: Put us on your show. [END OF APPLICANT VIDEO CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD: Now, I know you've only been in business for a few months now.
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: Mm-hmm [AFFIRMATIVE]
BOB GARFIELD: But has any of your applicants actually been cast on a reality show?
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: Well, you know, even before we opened up our door, so to speak, we had a request from "Blind Date" for a gentleman, and a friend of a friend was interested. He's a med student. He ended up getting cast on the show and went out on the date. It hasn't aired yet, but [OVERTALK] -
BOB GARFIELD: So then the answer to my question is "No."
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: Oh, well, we haven't got anyone who has become a member on a show yet.
BOB GARFIELD: I have to applaud your entrepreneurial spirit. I really do. But as someone interested in the forward march of civilization - [OVERLAPPING VOICES]
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: Hmm.
BOB GARFIELD: - please convince me that we're not taking a few steps backwards here.
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: Hmm. Very philosophical question to ask about reality television. [CLEARS THROAT] I think we need diversions, and reality television should really be looked at as a diversion, much like any other form of entertainment. I myself have not traveled much, and being on "The Amazing Race" would be just a fantastic opportunity, were I able to do so. So whether or not we're pushing the civilization forward, I think the industry on a whole is able to give people opportunities that working the nine-to-five for forty hours and retiring wouldn't afford them otherwise.
BOB GARFIELD: Hey, is this all just a Trojan horse to get you on "Amazing Race?"
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: [LAUGHS]
BOB GARFIELD: Like the "Hair Club for Men" guy, are you also a client?
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: I am also a client. I had thought of that after we started the business, that it would be quite ironic if I ended up getting on a show because I did a business featuring reality television. It is not a Trojan horse, however.
BOB GARFIELD: Well, Brian, thank you so much.
BRIAN OSTROVSKY: Thank you. It's been my pleasure.
BOB GARFIELD: Brian Ostrovsky is founder and CEO of RTVStar.com. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coming up, denial, depression and acceptance in the music biz and the Tao of mental hygiene movies.