As I look at how best to translate a "reality TV" feeling to a fantasy-world competition, there are several decisions I have to make. The overarching challenge, I think, is to make it feel recognizably like the original concept without shattering the fourth wall and making it so metafictional that it loses its identity as a cohesive, emotional story. I've read good examples of how to do that. Rebecca Bradley's "Lady In Gil" in particular takes skewering, humorous shots at genre tropes and then managed to bring me to the brink of tears by the end ... and not tears of laughter. For me, humor has to be blended with empathy. You want to laugh with the characters, not at them.
So these are some of the issues I'm percolating:
1. Format - The shows I watch have two separate formats:
A) One big challenge that consumes the whole episode. The winner of that challenge usually has immunity for the next challenge.
B) One small challenge which either provides immunity for the main challenge or gives the winner some significant advantage - then a larger challenge.
Immunity usually disappears partway through as the competition gets steeper.
The advantage to using a B-style format is I would have twice as many fun "hero games" to play with. The obvious disadvantage is that it will take up a lot more manuscript space. Which is dependent on ...
2. Number, Length, Format - The between-episode scenes are indeterminate, but I will be giving myself some rough guidelines for the word count of the "episodes" themselves - so how many players, how many episodes, how many go head to head in a finale will have a huge impact on my projected word count. Oof.
3. POV - With so many characters to start, doing a standard third-person POV seems dicey - though I've considered doing it from the POV of a non-player watching (the "prize" bride / groom). I've also considered doing the between-episodes scenes in deep third, and the episode scenes in camera-view third (no internal narrative), with brief "cut-scenes" in first or deep third person ... to simulate those in-studio sessions where characters briefly gripe / bad-talk about each other.
4. Decision Process - Right now, I know only for definite that I don't want to decide before I start writing who will win. There's a possibility I may give the players a few numeric stats and determine their performance semi-randomly. (Being that if I don't like a result, I can always tweak.) That would mostly determine how the episode was written, not necessarily the outcome. I've also toyed with asking people to read episodes and "guest judge." Less sure about that - might be difficult to pull off.
5. Prizes - Yes or no? (Heh - short one.)
6. Worldbuilding - Since there is likely to be an element of, "X embodies Country 1," I could start with characters ... or I could change the way I worldbuild somewhat to focus on pointing up national quirks and character elements. Am I going to use non-humans yet? Not decided.
7. Other Stuff - I have seriously considered doing sketches for the characters before starting. Now, given my (lack of) artistic skill, that means I'd have to find image references ... but I think it could be cool. It would have no marketing value, it would just be a fun toy for me.