This old, old house: PBS wants 17th-century Survivors

Just what we need: one more reality show. Oh, well, at least the new PBS offering, Colonial House, is certain to be more high-tone than those greedy-singles-looking-for-a-mate travesties like Joe Millionaire or The Bachelor.

Colonial House offers participants neither love nor money. Instead, hardy souls who've always felt out of step with the modern age will have a chance to journey back to 1630 and live like a settler for five months.

PBS is looking for a couple dozen people to form a functioning colony complete with a governor. Families, couples, and singles aged 18 to 26 are encouraged to apply by February 15.

And local PBS station WHTJ Charlottesville is hoping that some of the participants will come from here.

"Virginia is home to America's first permanent English colony, so we know there could be people here who will jump at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," says Conni Lombardo, WHTJ vice president and general manager. "I'd love to see someone from this area in the series, and I encourage our viewers to consider applying."

PBS is capitalizing on its success with The 1900 House, in which a British family lived as Victorian Londoners, and Frontier House, which placed a group of Americans in 1880s Montana.

Besides mind-numbing hard work in uncomfortable clothing, what else can participants in Colonial House expect to savor while they live in the 17th century?

"They have to plant crops using what was available to colonists," says WHTJ's Cindy Hechler.

She's not sure if the faux colonists will be outfitted with muskets, but experts will train participants in 17th-century technology, like making butter or fishing from a dugout canoe.

Religion was a big draw for colonists coming to the New World, and Hechler points out that there were penalties for those who failed to attend church twice each Sunday. Discipline will be enforced, she says, but "It's open to the interpretation of people who are colonists."

Remember stocks, the wooden kind? There might be some on the show, says Hechler. But for those expecting ultimate reality, there will be no public whippings or brandings.

Nor will stern parents of the "spare the rod and spoil the child" school be considered good candidates. "There will be no child beating," declares Hechler.

"We're trying to be as faithful to the times as we can," she says, "but we're not going to jeopardize the health and well-being of anyone for a television show." What, no witch burnings?

Filming will start in June in a "beautiful, remote corner of the Eastern Seaboard" and continue through October. An ideal candidate will have "a real interest in the 17th century and be resourceful," says Hechler, adding, "If you don't have a lot of endurance, this is not something you'd want to do."

Most importantly, candidates will be people who can drop out of their lives for five months while living on a stipend. More information is available online at www.ideastations.org. Picky eaters need not apply.

 

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