What do the Gosselins, the Salahis, Sons of Anarchy, Balloon Boy and Deadliest Catch have in common?
They're all blowing it for everyone who likes to watch psychotic fame-whores getting their buttons pushed on the telly.
A recent LA Times article revealed that, in the wake of incidents like the Jon & Kate Plus Hate meltdown and repeat VH-1 contestant Ryan Jenkins' alleged murder of model/ex-wife Jasmine Fiore, reality TV producers are rethinking their modus operandi. Basically, some of the folks that make a living dreaming up new ways to manipulate obviously unhinged volunteers into public humiliations have begun to wonder: Are the background checks for people who want to go on Sure, I'll Soil Myself Then Eat The Jeans, As Long As America Sees It thorough enough?
They still want to make compelling reality television. But would it be better, maybe, to try to make it with desperate, damaged, untalented wannabe stars who are a little less, you know, insane?
Of course it wouldn't. It's a terrible idea, for a thousand little reasons which can be neatly collected into two big ones:
1. No sane person is gonna agree to be filmed being fed tequila slammers and rubbing nipples with their little brother's girlfriend in an STD petri dish; and 2. Nobody's gonna watch a group of sane people sit around — next to the hot tub, not in it — and talk about how uncomfortable they're making one another.
Docu-series like Deadliest Catch and Intervention (which is also, let's face it, chock full of crazy people) certainly have their place, as do more-or-less truly talent-based competitions like Top Chef. But there are already too many of them, and they'll never be the next Big Brother, the next Real World, the next all-that-other-stuff-on-Bravo. America wants its crazies.
If anything, reality-TV execs should be hunting down even crazier aspirants, and vetting them simply by asking them if they'd like to be famous. A piece that ran in Variety during the last week of the year attributed a boost in basic-cable network audiences to thoughtful, genre-crossing scripted dramas. It's a sure sign that America has grown bored with abs and megalomania and borderline date rape. MTV is to be lauded for going beyond the pale with the meta-trainwreck Jersey Shore, but we can't stop at The Situation; if we don't move on to The Crisis, The Blatant Crime and The Subsequent Ruination, we'll be failing to allow reality television to evolve toward its eventual perfection.
Which just mean's it's going to take that much longer for entertainment to achieve what countless sci-fi movies have assured us is the next logical step: death row inmates offing one another live. Which is indisputably what Americans want to see on their TVs. When we're ready. And we're going to be ready soon.
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