Really Pitiful

Hello, my intended.

Well, here we are again, and out of morbid curiosity - perhaps boredom - I sifted through some of these new 'Reality' TV shows... Not in the vein of COPS or Montell, mind you, but the more 'contrived reality' reality shows...

We were NOT impressed.

Reality TV, by definition, is where you get 'regular' people (non-actors, so as to avoid any messy bits involving unions) and place them under surveillance for ENTERTAINMENT. People, that's called VOYEURISM, and not exactly considered what 'good' folks get off on.

It all started back in the 50s with a guy named Alan Funt, who was the sick brain that devised 'Candid Camera'. Basically, him and a bunch of cronies would play practical jokes on unsuspecting folks and tape it with hidden cameras. Phony audits, phony police stops, phony salesmen, phony job interviews, all sorts of mischief to put our neighbors through their paces for a cheap laugh at their frustrations and foibles. Sounds pretty mean-spirited, right? Because it is. Strangely, versions of that show have been on the air ever SINCE. After all, people pushed to the breaking point is FUNNY. When finally clued in that they were being put on, most folks laughed in relief at it all being a gag. Some actually punched Mr. Funt in the FACE for putting them through such travail... Guess which moments -I- treasure? Heh.

Now, if that wasn't bad enough, in the 80s a show was started called 'America's Funniest Home Videos'. In a nutshell, rather than go through all the trouble of making a disaster happen, they encouraged people to send in their OWN disasters. Granny bust a hip at the wedding? Ha-ha-ha! Send it in! Dad get whiffle-batted in the balls by Junior at Teeball? Ha-ha! Send it in! Little Jeffy fall out a window and break his fucking NECK? HA-HA-HA!! Send it in! We'll give you some money if it's funny enough... Guess what? THAT show is still on, too...

It's been going downhill from there like a dump truck full of rocks on the Double Black Diamond Run with the brakes out, folks... The latest trend, I find, is that people do better when there's something to be GAINED from their efforts. Have some examples:

MTV got the ball rolling like gangbusters when they decided M was for Moron and began the ironically titled 'Real World'. Premise? Get a gaggle of beautiful type people and 'force' them to live in some swank digs rent free and be on my fucking television because my life isn't QUITE annoying enough. Everyone in Gen-X gets some cliche of a human being to 'identify' with and therefore care enough to watch their antics, which invariably seem to annoy at least THREE of the other cardboard cutouts in the house. Backbiting via interviews ensue as we watch these gimps bitch and moan about their problems. Awww... Everyone's picking on the wannabe country star because he's a virgin. Awww..The bike messenger won't take a fucking BATH. The biggest pity was by the time they let anyone on with any REAL problems, the audience is conditioned to 'accept' them merely as defining quirks of the individual in question. Yes, folks, this is the show that reduced AIDS to an anecdote discussed while putting condoms on bananas. And people don't believe me when I tell them the planet's on the last swirl of the COSMIC FLUSH. Sigh.

Then, to up the ante, they figured to take the show on the road, and stuffed a similar conglomeration of tidily-classified and neon-sign labelled people into a mobile home and sent them across the country on some crappy contrived scavenger hunt. Called it Road Rules, they did. That wouldn't be bad enough, no, but now MTV actually brings back the people from previous seasons to be on panel discussions and compete in contests against each other. Road Rules Vs. Real World Season 3, for example. Anything to get another stretch of the promised 15 minutes, I suppose. That's not counting all the shows they've done on PICKING the people to take part, mind you, where people are routinely told they're not REAL ENOUGH.

Fame was nice, sure, but people want more than that... Love, for example, is becoming the supposed prize on several of these shows. Not 'Dating Game' style, though, that was too trite and the hipsters of the day wouldn't buy it anymore. No, UPN came up with the grand idea to take the same formula - 3 suitors, one picker - and give it a nice twist... The result? Chains of Love. Yes, folks, Bachelors One, Two and Three will now be CHAINED to the Bachelorette for several days, and the enigmatic Locksmith would trot over every now and then and unshackle whichever of them she figured wasn't cutting the mustard until only Prince Charming remained.

Not to be outdone, Fox responded with the Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? disaster where they got a bunch of women on TV with the intent that one of them would marry a millionaire right on the spot sight unseen. First off, let me say that the women involving themselves in this out and out harlotry should be ashamed of themselves. How can a mother raise her little girl to believe she can be whatever she chooses to be, and yet require that her future husband be someone who can take care of them? How can women protest being objectified when given the chance they LINE UP to do it THEMSELVES? As for the show, the first funny part is that the guy turned out to NOT be a millionaire, and the SECOND funny part was that the woman decided she didn't WANT him. The last straw was that Fox DIDN'T LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES, and has come out with 'Who Wants to Be a Princess?', in which this time a European Prince is the prize. Let's hope they think to do a background check THIS time, eh?

What's the one thing people like to see more than folks finding true love, though? Easy! Watching people FUCK IT UP. Fox leads the way here, with a show called 'Temptation Island'. where several couples are whisked away to some romantic venue and then SEPARATED. Then, with only Mr. Cameraman on hand, these people are subjected to a barrage of giggolos and whores determined to seduce these folks. It happens, of course, and the other person in the relationship is allowed to witness their beloved's indiscretion either on tape or by having them happen to walk by while the cheating is in progress... Fireworks follow, and that means RATINGS. Sadly, Fox continues to drop the ball on background checks, and busted up one couple that had CHILDREN.

Another version of this is called Cheaters. Basically, a private investigator and his surveillance team is called in by someone who has cause to believe that their loved one may not be as faithful as they hoped. Once the goods are gotten, they show the person the evidence and go to 'confrontation' with the unfaithful one - usually red-handed (or involving other body parts) at the time. Fireworks = Ratings, remember? However, this is the one show I feel is doing it 'right'. Rather than hurt someone for no reason besides making a show (like Temptation Island), they expose someone for being a scumbag and let the person that was being bullshitted know it once and for all so they may exorcise them from their lives and move on. They also make certain that no violence comes of it, as is often the case when someone's caught with their pants down (or skirt up, as the case may be) by their 'one and only'.

Finally, there's the MONEY prize - I almost listed the Fox Marriage shows here, but that would all but cast in cement the young women involved in same as gutter whores and probably get me sued. So we'll give a wink and figure it's not the MONEY that made them want to marry someone they never saw before - they wanted to do it for LOVE, and the MONEY is just GRAVY. Yeah. When I put it that way, even -I- can almost believe it, but I digress... Heh.

It's a standing rule that normal folks will go through the most RIDICULOUS nonsense for cold, hard cash. Monty Hall proved that YEARS ago. So, the idea became to put not one, but a whole FLOCK of people through as much shit as POSSIBLE for fabulous cash prizes - a million dollars generally. CBS is the king of this particular hill. 'Survivor' is a show that celebrates divisiveness and backstabbing, and I'm certainly no fan of this loathsome drek. The first season had one guy that was a contractor and they kept him around JUST long enough for the shelters to get finished before they decided he was too 'bossy' and gave him the boot. The second season had one guy get booted because he FELL INTO FIRE. Yes, rather than having the 'tribes' work TOGETHER, they prefer to winnow out the misfits and remove them for the 'greater good'. One elderly woman was kicked off because she wasn't a strong RUNNER, and cost her tribe points in a race. And NOW this disaster is going to AFRICA of all places. That wouldn't be stupid enough, no, but they made sure there was only ONE non-white person in the whole damn troupe, and just to hammer THAT home his name is Clarence Black. Just in case the blind folks tune in, I guess. Not that an Americanized Negro wouldn't feel out of his element ENOUGH in AFRICA, no, but for grins let's make him the ONLY one surrounded by WHITE FOLKS with ROPE. Think of the TENSION! Think of the DRAMA! Tension and Drama = RATINGS!

Eager to make something of the WWF-Viacom merger, MTV comes up with something called 'Tough Enough' wherein a scad of young hopefuls eager to be a bigtime rassler strive to attain that goal for our amusement. One guy and one girl get a contract with the WWF at the end. Folks, as a once-hopeful wrestler who opted out for a goverment job when the odds against the brass ring ever getting in my mitt sank in; let me say that I found this particular show MOST distasteful. The idea, supposedly, is that this show enlightens the common numbskull in the audience to how much shit you gotta go through before you make it to the big time, yet it defeats its own PURPOSE. See, making it in the 'big time' is SUPPOSED to be what happens after YEARS of work and paying one's dues toiling away in school gyms and dive venues for peanuts. There are COUNTLESS people in the indy circuits that bust their ASS just making a LIVING, and would trade their left NUT for the shot that these dinks get by winning a CONTEST on a TV SHOW. And let's be honest, the people TRAINING them are FULLY aware of it. I've been a Taz and Al Snow mark since the ECW was a real promotion, and this just puzzles me to no end. Why they would involve themselves in this debacle KNOWING FIRST HAND how much you have to slough through to get to the Big Tent absolutely mystifies me. But I digress...

And now? Ready for the bottom of the barrel, are you? Well, there's one out called 'Manhunt' (on Fox, who remains the leader of the pack in Really Bad Ideas), in which a contestant is given a head start and hunted like an animal by paintball rifle toting thugs, among them a young man called 'The Prototype' that was featured in an A&E documentary about becoming a wrestler. People, that 'lowest common denominator' is not gonna get much lower...

Or so I thought before I caught sight of a show whose title I forget where several people are in a house with some 'killer' who stalks and subsequently 'kills' them to remove them from play - or NBC's 'Fear Factor' where they subject normal folks to deadly danger for cash and prizes - one show I saw had a guy hanging on to a car SUSPENDED A HUNDRED FEET FROM A CRANE, and he had a certain amount of time to gather money taped to it as well as find the key and then GET INSIDE - which would win him the car. MTV is still at it, this time letting us in on the joke with the appropriately titled 'Jackass', wherein some dumb country shitheel and his buddies do outrageous stunts to harm themselves, mixed in with some Alan Funt style hijinks - such as when they sneaked FECES into a Chinese restaurant and pretended that the cook was serving them SHIT mixed into the Veggie Platter. Kinda brings us full circle, doesn't it? Nice and tidy.

Folks, I know that there's about three hundred channels out there that will do just about ANYTHING to make you watch them. I also know that there's only SO much talent in Hollywood, and three hundred channels can spread it a bit thin. But THIS? This is sideshow gawking at its BASEST level, and on a NATIONAL scale. I know everyone wants to be on TV, but not everyone SHOULD. If you don't believe that, watch a few episodes of Springer.

Really makes you APPRECIATE the artistic depth of Gilligan's Island, doesn't it?

You're welcome. See you SOON.