This week showcased the finales (sort of) of several of this season’s batch of disturbing reality TV shows. In the coming months — when Yale students begin to feel overdosed on FOX’s mission to marry half of America on the television sets of the other half — an alternate option will be just a blue screen away.
Including the shows that departed this past week, there are at least 10 reality TV shows broadcast across the country each week. The current king, “Joe Millionaire,” was supposed to end weeks ago, but will continue its run next week with the “Aftermath.” Somewhat lower on the Nielsen ratings fall such shows as “Fear Factor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Celebrity Mole Hawaii,” “The Surreal Life,” “High School Reunion,” Bravo’s “The It Factor Los Angeles,” “Meet My Folks,” “American Idol 2,” and “Survivor: The Amazon.”
Thursday night alone, reality TV dominated three of the big four stations: CBS aired an episode of its umpteenth version of “Survivor,” Fox had a “Bachelor” special back-to-back with “Are You Hot? The Search for America’s Sexiest People,” and ABC had the third, count it, third, Michael Jackson special of the week. Actually, since nothing about Michael Jackson has any basis in reality, disregard ABC.
The WB also aired “The Surreal Life” finale featuring Corey Feldman’s nuptials (yes, you can shudder here), following “High School Reunion.” “Life” was one of the few shows with an utterly dead-on title. Only on reality TV could Feldman actually get married. Normal television would never do that to its audiences — the writers have too much respect for the public’s mental health. Television producers clearly do not have that problem.
Like the rest of America, many Yale students have caught the reality TV bug, gathering in common rooms to bite their nails as “Idol” judge Simon Cowell guts a talentless auditioner or scream with delight as some fool tries to down a cockroach on “Fear Factor.” And if students can’t get enough of watching perfect strangers humiliate themselves, imagine how many would tune in for a show where people they know act like idiots.
Fade in on Yale Reality TV.
Created by Hallie Haglund ’05 and Bradley Bailey ’05, Lux et Realitas, a Sudler-driven project, will create a Yale-themed version of just about every reality show you can imagine, from “Dismissed” to “Survivor” and every show in between.
Bailey, who has written columns for the Yale Daily News, said the goal of Lux et Realitas is to satirize reality television and have some fun.
“It’s not completely genuine,” Bailey said. “[But] part of the allure might be that one of your friends is on it, or that kid from your linear algebra class.”
Bailey said he and Haglund decided on reality-themed shows for the same reason producers do: “They’re what people would really be into.” Still, Bailey said Lux et Realitas intends to make its shows as melodramatic as possible.
“I’m not saying I’m not addicted to reality television,” Bailey said. “[But] everyone knows how hokey and cheesy reality television is.”
In the end, all of these so-called reality shows are surreal. “Trading Spaces?” What idiots would let their neighbors come in and destroy their house, when they have probably never had coffee together? ‘Reality’ TV is nothing new — it’s been disgusting and amusing people for decades, thanks to Chuck Barris and “The Gong Show” dream.
Lauren Abendshien ’06 said she thinks “Married by America,” next on the docket for FOX, reaches a new low.
“The divorce rate is already so high in this country. I think it’s sad that these TV shows reduce relationships and marriage to something to be voted on,” Abendshien said. “Who’s going to fall in love in front of a camera? It’s sick. We don’t know these people. [And the voters] can’t participate in a marriage after it happens.”
Though she said she dislikes most reality television, Abendshien said Lux et Realitas had the potential to be very funny.
“I watch American Idol, but other than that, I think [reality shows] are pretty stupid. The sheer volume of reality television shows on the air right now is appalling,” Abendshien said. “But I think if everyone realizes [Lux et Realitas] is poking fun at itself, that it’s a farce, that will be fine.”
Diana Lizardi ’06 said there was nothing inherently bad about reality television.
“Any idea taken to excess loses quality after awhile,” Lizardi said. “For some people, it serves as a form of escape.”
If you read any testimonial of a reality television show you will invariably see the word “addicted.” Reality television is an addiction, a legal way to invade the privacy of complete strangers and laugh at their idiocies. While film buffs learned the dangers of voyeurism from “Rear Window” and didn’t really believe reality TV would ever go to the sick lengths of “The Truman Show,” television producers are milking the reality TV cash cow for all its worth. And they will not stop as long as there is an audience.
But, really, we should thank Barris and those geniuses who brought “Survivor” to America and started the most current wave of Reality TV. Without it, television would just fill up with much worse programming: biographies of rock stars who all overdose in the same hotel bathroom, Jerry Springer and the similarly-themed Judge Judy, unwatchable game shows like Hollywood Squares, and, of course, Michael Jackson specials.
Wait. My bad.