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What would America’s ‘The Calling’ look like?

After watching “The Calling” on Netflix, I wondered what the show would look like in the U.S. First, I think there would be a lot more game playing and strategizing than there has been through the first seven episodes of the Indian incarnation of the show. That would take away from the appeal of the show because “The Calling” is at its best when the three contestants are helping each other and taking their individual strengths into consideration, rather than just focusing on winning.

However, I want to focus on the travel experiences that could be curated in the United States. Without taking time, distance or cost into consideration and following the show’s original 10 competition setup, I tried to come up with the 10 individual challenges featured at the beginning of an episode, the two curated experiences for the winner of the individual challenge, and the grand experience that ends each episode. The idea is to show the greatness of America and its culture while exploring places that may not be well known. What experiences would garner great ratings?

I tried to choose ten regions or states that made sense, had a large amount of appeal and could bring something to the table that is instantly recognizable. Here’s my list and the challenges to go with it:

Alaska and dog sled
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Episode 1, Alaska – The competitors would be able to explore Native Alaskan Culture at the Alaska Native Heritage Center and take part in one of the games that is part of the cultural heritage of the Alaskan people. The “snowsnake” might be the easiest one for contestants to learn and compete in. They must slide a stick across the ice. The person who slides it the farthest gets the bucket list item. The other two must curate an experience.

There are many things people can experience in Alaska. Salmon or halibut fishing, salmon bake, hikes of all levels, wildlife watching, glacier trips… The two I would put on the list for curation would be a glacier tour and either Talkeetna or Valdez. Alaska’s glaciers are beautiful and cinematic. Talkeetna and Valdez offer unique glimpses of Alaskan urban life. Talkeetna with its Mountain High Pizza Pie has great food and views. Valdez has its earthquake and oil spill history. An Alaskan cabin experience could put on this list, too.

The biggest problem with Alaska’s most iconic event is the hassle people would get from PETA. Still, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime to ride in the Iditarod at the ceremonial start in Anchorage. That’s the bucket list item. Other bucket list activities could be a trip to Prudhoe Bay, staying in a Native village, going to Nome, staying in an Alaskan cabin, or flying over Denali National Park.

Seattle skyline
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Episode 2, Seattle – the obvious next stop. Representing the Pacific Northwest, Seattle’s skyline is recognizable and there’s no shortage of culture and outdoors people can experience from the city. The competition would be to throw and catch fish at Pike Place Market; whoever caught and threw the most fish without a drop wins.

The first of the curation events would be a coffee tasting, which could include learning to pull a perfect shot. The second of the curation events would be glassblowing: Dale Chihuly is from Tacoma. A trip to the Museum of Pop Culture may also be a part of the curated event or the bucket list. The bucket list event could be dinner at the Space Needle or a concert with a popular Seattle band.

Hollywood sign
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Episode 3, California – The Golden State offers a lot of choices as far as TV shows are concerned. From the Redwoods in Northern California to Hollywood with Sacramento and San Francisco in between, California could probably host an entire season of “The Calling” by itself. For this national and international version though, I would stick with Hollywood and Los Angeles. Contestants would be given a short script and have 30 minutes to memorize it. They would perform that script from memory. The one that has the best memory or makes the fewest errors wins.

The curated events would be a Hollywood sightseeing tour and a night at an improv or comedy theater. The bucket list event would be a rodeo drive shopping spree, but it could also be courtside tickets to a basketball game.

Las Vegas sign
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Episode 4, Las Vegas – If the first season is about iconic cities, few cities are as iconic as Las Vegas. The competition starts at the poker table, five hands, whoever has the most chips at the end wins. The competition could also be Elvis Presley karaoke, where the contestants dress up like the King and sing one of his songs. The judges would be three Elvis impersonators.

One of the curated events would feature one of Las Vegas’ most well-known restaurants. The other would be a trip to the strip; with the fountains, amusement park/hotels, and street performers, this could be really good. The Bucket List would be an “A” level backstage concert, which would probably beat the Seattle concert. A flight over the Grand Canyon could also be a Bucket List item.

Balloon Festival
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Episode 5, Albuquerque – You probably knew you should have made a left turn at Albuquerque. New Mexico would represent the Southwest. The competition would take place with the city’s minor league team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. Contestants would take batting practice, the one that hits the most balls in five minutes wins.

One curated experience would involve the cuisine of New Mexico and how it’s different from the rest of the Southwest. The other curated experience would be at Petroglyph National Monument. The bucket list event would be the International Balloon Fiesta.

Cowboy Stadium
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Episode 6, Texas – Capturing America’s cowboy spirit, the Texas episode would focus on its wild west reputation and independence. The competition would be shooting at targets with a gun. This could be problematic given America’s epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings. The curated experiences would be a trip to the Alamo and learning to play the guitar in the country style. The bucket list item would be the coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys and 50-yard seats for an NFL game.

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Episode 7, Florida – A state all of its own, Florida gives a quick trip to the Atlantic with several opportunities for cinematic gold. The competition would be a beach cleaning; the contestant that picks up the most trash wins. The first curated experience would be an airboat trip with manatees. The second curated experience would be the Miami club scene. The bucket list experience would be a trip out to the Keys or a cruise.

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Episode 8, Illinois – Chicago is America’s Second City. You’ve got jazz, the Golden Mile, the Sears Tower and that song by Frank Sinatra. But Illinois is also home to Abraham Lincoln, and it is with him that the episode would start. Contestants would learn to spilt rails and then compete with their newfound skill. Curated events would include a jazz night and a Lake Michigan cruise. The bucket list event would be throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game.

Episode 9, New York – The Big Apple is on everyone’s bucket list. Here contestants would compete at shooting hoops with the Knicks as their guides and coaches. Hit the most free throws in a minute and win! One curated event would be a night on Broadway. The second event would be a historical site tour, which could include the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and the Empire State Building. The bucket list item would be ringing the bell on Wall Street.

The White House
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Episode 10, Washington, D.C. – As the nation’s capital, D.C. makes for a fitting last episode. Here contestants would have to get people to vote for them. The one with the most votes wins. One curated experience would be the Smithsonian. The second curated experience would involve a trip to Gettysburg with a possible re-creation of the event. The bucket list item would be to meet the president, which some might find controversial; alternatively, it could be the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Event. The winner of the show would get a revamped website paid for five years, a YouTube channel set up and ready to be monetized, and $100,000 for travel and other expenses incurred as a travel blogger.

It’s tough to boil America down to ten episodes in a single state. We’ve missed Hawaii, Louisiana and New Orleans, Tennessee and Graceland, South Dakota and the Black Hills, Wyoming’s west culture, Missouri’s Mark Twain and so many more. What would you have people do in your state if a show like “The Calling” was scheduled? Exercise your creativity and give us a competition, two curated events and a bucket list event for your area in the comments.

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‘The Calling’ Explores India and Competition in Reality TV Show

Netflix’ reality game show “The Calling” pits three Indians against each other in a test of skills and personal knowledge of each other as they travel India checking items off their bucket list and earning miles toward the Grand Experience and a scholarship. Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are the lucky contestants who are traveling together and, at least up through episode seven, nominally competing against each other.

Each almost-30-minute show begins with a challenge related to the area they have traveled to. One show, they tied ribbons on Yak horns. Another show, they tried to steal pineapples while dodging arrows shot by local hunters. The winner of the challenge gets 1,000 points and the grand experience for that show.

The losers of the challenge must curate an experience for the winner based on two choices given them. Once the two experiences are over, the winner chooses who made the better experience. That person gets to go to the grand experience with the winner and 900 miles. The person, who’s experience isn’t chosen, gets 800 miles. At the end of the season, the person with the most miles will get a scholarship.

This show works as a quick showcase of India and the possibilities of tourist travel. It also exposes parts of Indian culture that people may not be aware of. It doesn’t work as much of a competition because the dynamics of the three travelers tends to make them friends first and competitors second. It would be difficult for three people who competed in a cutthroat manner to travel together, Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are aware of this.

However, through the course of their travels, each of them faces very personal challenges, and they need the support of their traveling companions to overcome the problem. In one episode, the support actually led to the person having the problem winning the challenge. It’s inspiring and nice, and it challenges what Americans know from their own reality shows. “The Calling” shows that people can compete and do so with integrity, respect, joy, and compassion. Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are enjoying each other’s company and the experience while having fun.

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‘Instant Hotel’: The Strategy

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What makes “Instant Hotel” a little different from other reality game shows is that it pits a group of entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry and share economy against each other. Each couple owns an instant hotel, which means they rent out their homes to vacationers. The other couples visit the hotel and rank it based on the home itself, local amenities and attractions, a good night’s sleep and value for the money. These scores, all on a scale of 1 to 10, are combined with the interior design professional’s score. In addition, the group of 8 are given a score from the hosts based on how the home was left and if all the rules were followed. The winner of the game gets a trip to California to stay at an exclusive instant hotel rumored to be run by a Hollywood celebrity.

So, how do you win this game? Since it’s the first season, episode two, it doesn’t appear that many of the participants are looking to win in the traditional sense – getting the prize. Instead, they’re looking to enjoy themselves, see what other instant hotels are doing and just go along for a good time. The mother/daughter team tried to plant the seeds of some sort of alliance against the two gay men, but it was more of a “let’s not let them win because we don’t like them” kind of thing.

If someone wanted to win, they could rate every experience they were on with a zero. The scores are anonymous, and it would probably be too late before anyone did the math to figure out what was going on. That same team could then rate their guests as a zero, and it would still put them ahead but reveal the strategy. This would work best with a team that is later in the series. No one knows when they will be the hosting hotel, but even the first hotel could rate its guests with a six without giving anything away.

However, that’s not actually the point of this competition. The point is for every hotel to get more guests after the episodes air. How do we get more people to come to our hotel rather than the other hotels featured and the other hotels in our area? The first step is to have a great hotel. The second step is to treat your guests well. The third step is to hope the guest at your hotel on this show say good things about your hotel. Whatever happens, the hotel experience needs to be memorable so that no one forgets what your hotel was like.

These steps should help the team connect with the viewing audience in some way and improve booking rates. More needs to happen though. People need to feel like the team is made of people they want to hang out with. They need to feel like the team is something they can support. Most importantly, team members need to find a way to create a story that will last and motivate people to book.

The longer-term gain from “Instant Hotel” is increased tourism for Australia from both nationals and foreigners. So, there needs to be a minimum of bad-mouthing of places and hotels and a maximum of showing off the best the country has to offer. Could a team employ a zero-sum strategy? Sure, and while it might win that team the trip to California, it would undermine the meta game goals of improved bookings at their own hotel and improved tourism for Australia. Because who would want to stay with a team that lied to win?

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2 Episodes In: ‘Instant Hotel’

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When someone does something with passion and the do it well, it’s a joy to watch them be rewarded. In the second episode, Jannine and Mark have a ‘50s-inspired Instant Hotel that’s amazing. The other guests love it, too. When they tell the couple how they feel, Jannine and Mark tear up. It’s a beautiful moment that’ll touch your heart strings, too.

As a series, “Instant Hotel” is fun. Because the participants are Australian, I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Sure, they speak English, but the cultures are different enough to catch an American off guard. So far, they tend to stick with their stereotypes: The two gay guys, the spoiled little girl who can’t get out of bed and her enabling mother, and the young couple with the wife who is spoiled but “in a different way.” But most of them seem to be enjoying themselves. The competition is bound to ratchet up as the mother-daughter team look to bring down the gay-team, but for the moment, there are only seeds for this future conflict.

I don’t normally watch reality television shows, but “Instant Hotel” is a good time that has a different cultural element to it. If you want to diversify your viewing habits and watch something that you don’t normally watch, this show is a good choice. Improve your creativity by replenishing your well and learning about instant hotels in Australia.

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