Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Dose of Reality for Reality TV

With all the new "reality" television shows today, the ideas must be running a bit thin. I'd like to propose an alternate concept that would inject some hard reality into these shows, which would also coincidentally make them more gripping, and thereby more entertaining. Here are a few suggestions:

Ubiquitous Disclaimer: To those of my readers who might not be aware of such obscure concepts as "parody," "satire," and "irony," this is not meant to make light of the subjects involved. Consider it, instead, as a contrast of what REALITY means as opposed to "reality television," as well as an opportunity to flex one's mental muscles by assuming uncomfortable positions not generally accepted or promoted by the status quo, which generally involves the least amount of effort combined with the greatest amount of ignorance. You have been warned.


Take 10 average middle-class white American citizens, drop them in an area like the Bedford-Stuy, or perhaps Flatbush, clad in nothing but their underwear, and tell them that there are subway passes and McDonald's food coupons hidden in locations within a 10-block radius from their drop-off point. The drop-off time will be at midnight. They will, of course, have to "survive" the night (during this time, an arrangement could be made with the local police precincts to avoid any intervention . . . a sufficient cash donation, or perhaps an arms deal, would facilitate this). Part of the contract for the show's participants would include a codicil that indemnifies any of the local citizens from any actions that might result in bodily harm to the participants--after all, the point is SURVIVAL, which always entails a risk of physical harm. As far as advertising and sponsorship, which is always vital to a show's continuation, i have already mentioned McDonald's, and even the NYC Police could use commercial time to run recruitment ads (because, even in this massive recession, it seems like the police force is always hiring). In addition, having the participants clad only in underwear would be a prime opportunity for manufacturers of those apparel to prove how tough and resistant to damage their garments are . . . "And as this Survivor shows, a night on Flatbush Avenue and several assaults by the locals haven't managed to damage Fruit-of-the-Loom's super-tensile waistband!" The prize for the winners (if there are any who truly survive) would be . . . drum-roll, please . . . TO CONTINUE TO LIVE! Yes, the true meaning of survival would hit home to these middle-class Americans who are so bored with their hum-drum existence of shopping malls, cheerful kitchens, tranquil bathrooms, and 500+ HD channels of bullshit.


A true "iron chef" must make the most from his or her supplies, no matter what they are, and serve them with flair. What better place to put those skills to the test than a third-world country where starvation is rampant? Of course, these chefs would have the most advanced cooking equipment (although finding power sources for this equipment would be part of their challenge), and they would have any food-like substances that the local inhabitants had access to. On a positive note, the judges would be the inhabitants, who could possibly benefit from having a few top-notch chefs to prepare their food and make the most out of their meager rations. Again, contracts would have to be drawn up to indemnify the locals, because the presence of so much American "culture" could easily cause riots, thefts, and other events (which viewing audiences in America appear to appreciate so long as they themselves are not involved).
The prize, of course, is to be able to return to their lives and jobs in America, where they'd have a greater appreciation for ANY food they are able to get.


How can one truly appreciate the drama of cat-fights and estrogen overload in a location of relative wealth and comfort? Such conflicts could be shown to greater effect if the attractive denizens of some upscale neighborhood were transplanted in some out-of-the-way, poor, and less "enlightened" location. Each houswife would be assigned a trailer or shack, and their families would be portrayed by casting a group of the locals in those roles. Shopping trips would be occasions of great drama, considering that the housewives in question would be given a stipend roughly equivalent to the average wage in that region . . . a trip to the local "____ mart" would be quite grueling, especially with half a dozen kids and an alcoholic husband in tow. The housewives themselves, of course, would receive no prizes at the end of the show, but the families that they lived with would receive stipends based upon what the "housewives" had before the show . . . including real estate and personal property. And all of America would have a chance to view a show that involved REAL people who aren't coached or refereed by directors and actors and makeup artists.

It's easy to see how these shows could become part of a real improvement in the "reality" part of "reality tv," contrasting the "values" of WASP middle-class America with what it truly takes to survive . . . things that seem to matter so much would take on an entirely different light when survival, sustenance, and relationships are not mere buzzwords, but are the very things that one's life hinges upon.

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