The show will be produced out of England by Eyeworks, the third largest independent television producer in the world. Formed in 2001 and based in the Netherlands, it has affiliates in 14 countries, and its offerings are broadcast to the citizens of 50. Its American arm, 3Ball Productions, makes reality shows that range from respectable (The Biggest Loser and Beauty and the Geek) to cringe-inducing (Breaking Bonaduce and Scott Baio Is 45 ... and Single). It produced I Know My Kid's a Star, so it can handle high-maintenance mothers, and it's now casting for Camp Cougar, a show about older women chasing younger men, so clearly it's not afraid of controversy. But the American production house says it has nothing to do with the Suleman deal. (Read a brief history of multiple births.)
That's because the story of the mother of six who suddenly expanded her brood by eight is not being produced for the American market but for another market nearly as robust the market that enjoys watching Americans being crazy.
Eyeworks, which is still working out the exact details of the deal with Suleman, had its biggest reality hit to date in the U.K. with last year's Half Ton Mum, a one-hour show about Texan Renee Williams, who died at the age of 29, weighing nearly 900 lb. (400 kg). Her two adolescent daughters, Mirina and Mariah, narrated the program.
A few months later, Eyeworks made Half Ton Dad, about the struggles of Kenneth Brumley, a 1,035-lb. (469 kg) 40-year-old father of four, also from Texas, who, unlike Williams, survived well past his bypass surgery. As the Channel 4 promotional material put it: "Half Ton Dad is the story of a father, his family and a country which currently has 15 million morbidly obese citizens."
Neither of these shows aired, unsurprisingly, in the U.S. They present a view of Americans that actual Americans don't find quite so enthralling.
According to Suleman's lawyer, Jeff Czech, her show will be more documentary than reality show, following her eight most recent offspring as they grow, much like Michael Apted's venerated Up series, which has been visiting and filming a cross section of 14 British citizens since they were 7 years old. Eyeworks has a similar franchise in Denmark, Generation 10, which follows four children as they grow up, checking in every three months or so.
But as every reality producer knows, you can never tell exactly what a show will be like before it's filmed. "Whatever comes of the edit bay will set the tone," says Scott Sternberg, an independent producer who has worked on such reality shows as The Chris Isaak Hour, Shootout and The Academy. "If it's produced right, it could be great. Or it could be a train wreck."
If it's a huge hit in Europe, might we see the show Stateside? People in the industry aren't sure there's an appetite for another show about big families, especially one with a single mother. "The big draw of Jon & Kate Plus 8 is the marriage," says Sternberg. "People want to see how that works out. The Octomom doesn't have that." But it looks like she could find a lot of fans overseas.