Friday, March 12, 2004

Reality Life

I'm not embarrassed to admit I watch reality-based television programming.
I am slightly embarrassed that I'm not embarrassed.
What happened to my pride? My self esteem? My too cool for school, too socially desirable to have time to watch television, much less crappy, cheaply made, humiliation as amusement-type shows persona?
(And it's not as if I don't discern; you'd never carch me watching America's Funniest Home Videos, or Regis and Kelly - or The Royal Canadian Air Farce. I have standards!)
And who has time to think about such things, when a brand new Reality program is about to begin?
Playing it Straight, which debuts tonight on the Fox network, pits sweet n' single Jackie against 14 potential mates, all in the name of love... and a million dollars. (A million dollars. Every time I hear the ubiquitous sum announced as the prize for outwitting or outlasting or out-bitching fellow contestants, I have an image of the Austin Powers franchise star Dr Evil in my head: "One miiiiiilliiiiioooonnnnn dollars!" the decades later thawed-out evil mastermind demands for not destroying the world - only to discover that like everything, inflation has hit evil geniuses, and the cost of the world has increased a billion-fold or so. But for reality-based television programming the cost of literally selling out your grandma to win - and it's been done, as dedicated Survivor-ites can attest - remains stuck at a chill mil.)
But Jackie has a tough row to hoe in winkling out her perfect mate (ostensibly more important than the dough... puhleaze...) as she discovers that an undisclosed number of her suitors are (gasp) gay and hellbent on foolin' her. The producers are no doubt sure that this little winkle wrinkle will have viewers tuning in with gobsmacked abandon each and every week. For myself, one viewing will probably suffice; as a Reality program afficianado, before I commit, I taste and savour before spitting out (or spitting on) the tasteless offerings.
I'd much prefer to have seen the cable series upon which Playing it Straight is nominally based. On Boy Meets Boy, a gay man was the focus of the show that provided him with 15 potentials, some of whom (he was unaware) were straight! Now that's a show where drama, laughter, tears and triumph could ensue with unmatched panache and Queer Eye style. A better dressed, better coiffed, better able to rip their co-competitors to hilarious shreds group, was doubtless never gathered together. Excepting the straights of course; to my way of thinking, it's a mighty rare straight man who could not only dish a guy, but do him... even at the prospect of 'one miiiiilllliiiioooonnn dollars!'.
My career with Reality (the capital 'R' distinguishes the televised from the non-Nielson rated human consciousness-based) began as it no doubt did for most of you, with the original Survivor. After that, appetite whetted, Big Brother entered my life, followed by - I hope I'm getting this chronologically accurate - the first in the series of The Bachelors, followed by a couple of The Bachelorettes, then the Average Joes and so on and so forth until we arrive at the gay/straight shows that will now presumably litter the dial until some other permutation of man/woman, pretty/ugly, gay/straight occurs to this new generation of overnight millionaire producers. (Who, it is hoped, have listened to their moms and are saving their pennies for the rainy days when some new cable phenomenon will send second-rate Reality into the recycling bin of TV history. I don't see a museum retrospective of this shite showing up anytime soon. Save blooper shows, of course...)
The observant amongst you will have no doubt registered the absence of a couple of programs many think fit the requirements of the Reality list: American (and obviously, to a lesser extent, Canadian) Idol, and the really observant - or possibly shut-in contingent of readers - will be searching for a mention of 'Joe Schmo'. Sorry, gentle readers, I won't place any of those on the Reality Register. The Idols are based on talent (or the imagined hilarious lack of it) and 'Joe Schmo' was a joke. Though I admit I enjoyed what I saw of it; kudos to the casting bods who managed to find what appeared to be a genuinely innocent sweet slob, and by doing so, removing nearly all the nasty sting at the final reveal.
I've also nixed The Apprentice,Fear Factor and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance; the first because it has yet to complete an initial series, the second because it's gross, the third because it was stupid. Hey - it's my list.
But now I've both good news and better news to report. A new program was recently shopped to networks, then pitched to the precise principles upon which it would be based. The good news is it's not gonna happen. The better news is, we've heard about it, so without the smell and the mess of having to actually see it, we can instead imagine what weekly madcap antics Liza Minnelli and David Gest would have displayed had they agreed to argue their divorce (and contractually agree to meekly accept the verdict of the jury) as they were offered the opportunity to do on "Celebrity Justice". It's just too delicious to imagine - and too horrifying to contemplate actually watching.
Because that's where I draw my line in the Malibu Beach sand of Reality TV; I like it clean - or as clean as the filthy dirty, wicked, alliance-betraying, machination-fixated, lying, cheating, no holds barred, honest competition of Survivor and Big Brother display.
The others are crap - and I cannot imagine why you people waste your time watching them.
Get a life!

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