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Who Wants To Survive Another Season of Faux Reality?

8 Jun, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

Stand back, Jack, we could be in for another season of stomach-turning, misnamed “reality” programming.

I guess there are a few people who never get tired of this “who-wants-to marry-a-farm-animal-that-used-to-live-in-a-Manhattan-penthouse-before-surviving-a-month-on-a-deserted-island-at-a-high-school-reunion-and-becoming-an-American Idol” programming, but with the exception of one recently concluded guilty pleasure — Bravo's “Showbiz Moms and Dads” — I can't change the channel fast enough when it comes on. In fact, the recent faux news puff pieces on those shows and expiring sitcoms are making me switch off formerly reputable news magazine programs as well.

At least one director calls this pap “dramality,” which is slightly more accurate than the absurd “reality” tag.

That moniker for the genre may encapsulate why we are probably in for more of it, ad nauseum. You see, so-called reality programming is a really cheap way to get a program on the air with a minimum of payments to writers and actors. “Survivor” pays a contestant $1 million at the end of the season. “Friends” was reportedly costing $8 million per half hour. When there is no talent involved, you don't have to pay talent.

For those who may have forgotten, surreality programming got a big boost when the movie and TV studios feared an actors strike a few years ago. The shows nearly eliminated the need for professional actors, so the content producers could scrap projects that did need them.

With the writers and directors still miles apart on DVD and Internet residuals, we could be in for another round. If that happens, someone please call me for a new show. I have a great idea.

It's called “Survivor: Living Room.” You put a group of TV viewers into a living room with no drugs or alcohol and see who can survive without killing themselves — or each other — as they watch an endless stream of shows about people making what should be the most important decisions of their lives in the shallowest possible forum and self-loathing twits having themselves surgically sculpted into Barbie dolls. No wonder viewers are deserting broadcast television in droves.

This whole scenario may have one redeeming quality: It's nearly guaranteed to send the rest of the viewing public scrambling for their DVDs.

Late addendum: As if we needed further proof, just after I wrote this column, TBS announced a casting call for its new "reality" series, "The Real Gilligan's Island." 'Nuff said.

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