A new reality game show, “Schooled,” will debut this fall on the New England Sports Network, and a team of students from the University of Maine will be stars of the first episode.
“Schooled,” hosted by comedian Michael Showalter, is a battle of brainpower between college students throughout New England. Airing before or after Red Sox games, the show will appear to be an athletic tournament with school mascots and logos. But the challenges will test the students’ intelligence rather than their athleticism.
In addition to competing in challenges, the students will divulge how they feel about the competition and their relationships with team members and opponents during confessionals, a format similar to that of the popular television show “Survivor.”
“It isn’t just people on podiums, answering questions and pressing buttons,” said show director Scott Masterson.
Instead of taking place on a desert island — the venue of “Survivor” — “Schooled” will be filmed on the campuses of the eight New England schools chosen to participate. The University of Maine, the only Maine team, most likely will be up against Northeastern University at its Boston campus for the first episode, which will be filmed in April.
The show’s producers and directors visited each school during March to interview applicants. More than 20 UMaine students tried out for the show Wednesday and Thursday, March 23 and 24, in the Memorial Union on campus, but only three of those students will be chosen to make up the UMaine team.
“What makes you different, besides your hair?” Masterson asked Dan Freedman of Caribou.
The glaring overhead lights emphasized Freedman’s curly mop of auburn hair as he sat in front of a camera. He smiled and brushed his fingers over the stubble on his face.
“I need to get a haircut and shave. But, for one, I’m pretty large,” said Freedman. He and Masterson laughed. “I’m 6 foot 4. I play rugby, which is fun. I’m almost always positive. I kind of just go with the flow.”
Freedman, a sophomore secondary education major, aspires to become a physics teacher, preferably at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, where he attended summer camp for several years as a teen. He doesn’t remember a time when he has ever been on television, but he acted in plays and musicals in high school, and thinks that experience might help him not be camera shy.
At UMaine, he works at the Information Technology Help Center, fixing software and helping people with website difficulties. He’s knowledgeable about optics and light and enjoys solving Sudoku puzzles and just relaxing with his friends. He scored much higher than average on the “Schooled” intelligence test of 10 questions that accompanies the application.
“I’m definitely book smart,” said Masterson. “But I’ve definitely said some stupid things.”
“A prerequisite is that they have to be intelligent; they have to have some sort of intellectual ability to hang with the rest of the crowd,” said Masterson. “But most important is the person has to have an engaging personality.”
By Thursday, the second day of interviews, 20 University of Maine students already had applied and undergone the interview process.
“UMaine has been a gold mine,” said Masterson. “There have been a lot of characters coming through. As a director, I want interesting characters to work with, for people to come in and spill their guts and put it all out there. There are intelligent people everywhere, at all these schools. But it’s the bigger personalities that have been shining here.”
While most of the applicants hailed from small Maine towns, their personalities and talents were all over the board.
UMaine freshman Whitneigh Kinne sat in the spotlight after Freedman.
Kinne, 18, of North Yarmouth is a sister of the UMaine Greek sorority Alpha Phi, has competed in Miss Teen Maine and plans to compete in this year’s Miss Maine pageant.
“I may wear makeup every day, but I’m not afraid to go up against the boys,” Kinne said. “I’m not afraid to play dirty. There’s a whole thing about pageant girls being airheads, but Miss Maine is actually a scholarship pageant.”
Instead of watching movies, Kinne watches documentaries and the news, and the friends who attended the interview with her said she knows a lot of random trivia.
When Kinne was a little girl, her room was decorated in University of Maine memorabilia. Her father, stepmother and all three of her brothers attended UMaine, and it was the only college she applied to. That’s why she thinks she would be a good “black bear” to have on the show.
The format of “Schooled” is simple. In each episode, two schools will compete head-to-head in three challenges. The team that loses is out of the running. The winning teams trickle down a tournament-style bracket until the final episode, during which two teams will battle for cash and other prizes that have yet to be decided upon.
The challenges might be trivia questions or puzzles the team must solve. At least one of the challenges will be in a public area so participants can interact with the campus environment. Viewers of the show can interact with each other online through comments and contests.
Maine will be up against Northeastern University, Boston College, Boston University, University of Vermont, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Connecticut and Providence College.
NESN plans to air the first episode in September, and if the show goes well, it might shoot additional seasons with new schools.
“There are 200-some schools in New England, so we could do this for a long time,” said Masterson.
For information, visit www.nesn.com.