Stop the Reality

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

From The Boston Herald

Suspend belief, bring an end to rash of reality TV shows

January 28, 2001

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Could somebody please make all the reality go away? I have enough reality in my life already. I don't need to see any more of it when I turn on my television.

Survivor: The Australian Outback begins tonight, following the Super Bowl, and I seem to be just about the only American who doesn't care.

I'm sorry, but I just don't care who gets kicked out of the tribe. I don't care who wins $ 1 million. And I don't even care who has to eat a bug on national television. Granted, surviving in the Australian Outback is an arduous task, but that's nothing compared to my goal - surviving the next three months without having to hear anything about Survivor.

Can I do it? Well, of course not. I would have to turn off my television, stop reading the newspaper, avoid all magazines and shun most human contact. The problem is that reality television has somehow gone from a lame programming stunt to an all-out cultural phenomenon. I probably wouldn't mind so much if Survivor were the only reality program. But, as with anything in Hollywood, success has spawned countless clones, especially with the networks worried so much about a potential actors' strike this summer.

Already, we have Fox's Temptation Island, in which four couples considering marriage agree to "test their bonds" by spending two weeks on an island with 26 "fantasy singles," all of whom are being paid by Fox to seduce the contestants away from their mates.

I'm not even sure why shows like this are called "reality." Alas, my reality does not usually include traveling to exotic islands full of "fantasy singles" trying to seduce me. My reality is far, far more boring. If Fox really wanted to have a show that seemed realistic to me, it wouldn't be Temptation Island; it would be Lethargy Couch.

Fox is also planning to air Love Cruise, in which a group of singles take a cruise and try to meet that special person(s) - all on film, of course. It's sort of The Love Boat to Temptation Island's Fantasy Island. How real can these shows be if they are apparently taking their cue from old Aaron Spelling shows? If there is any justice in the world, the Love Cruise will run into dangerous waters and end up shipwrecked on Temptation Island.

Meanwhile, UPN plans to give us Chains of Love, a show that will attempt to do for bondage what Temptation Island does for infidelity. This program will feature a contestant shackled to four members of the opposite sex for four days. At the end of each day, the contestant gets to let one person go, until finally he or she is left shackled to only one. At this point, UPN hopes for romance to blossom.

"From bondage to bonding," UPN calls it. That's not reality. That's just plain creepy.

If you think these shows sound tacky, brace yourself. Things may only get worse. According to a BBC report, Endemol, the company behind last summer's snoozefest Big Brother, is considering a show in England called I Want Your Baby. In this show, unmarried women planning to have children will choose between potential sperm donors on television. Great. Somehow, we have gone from The Dating Game to The Mating Game. I don't even want to know what's next.

The optimist in me likes to think that the networks have at least reached their low point. After shows like this, there's nowhere to go but up, right?

The pessimist in me, however, knows better.

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