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The Latest In Reality TV

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And now, for a story that sounds like an especially bad "Saturday Night Live" skit. Here's the tagline: "in a nation skidding toward civil war, putting Shiites, Kurds, Sunnis and Christians under a single roof to 'play house' might literally end up as a contest for survival of the fittest." That's how the Los Angeles Times describes the latest in reality television programming in Iraq. It's called "Playing House," a series that has aired every night for the month of Ramadan, one of a new swath of reality shows available on several newly independent television channels in Iraq.

It's a bit "Survivor," a bit "Big Brother," writes the Times. "…a dozen contestants from regions as disparate as Baghdad, Hillah, Diyala and Kirkuk gather to live for about a month in a small inn-turned-ultramodern living space outfitted in magenta and chartreuse." They perform tasks like Spin-the-Bottle, building a barn or loading cargo. The losing team nominates two losers and the audience boots one off the island. The winner gets $3,000. Of course, the program doesn't take place on an island, or in certain other locations in Iraq: "Naturally, none of these activities are carried out in downtown Baghdad, where venturing alone into the wrong neighborhood can land you in the morgue."

"Instead, the creators of 'Beit Beut' flew the whole cast up to the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Iraq, in the scenic hills above Sulaymaniya."

And for all it's similarities to Western television, there are still pretty substantial differences. Said the show's director: "We are from a conservative society, and we respect and protect our traditions and norms. No romance!"

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