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Voices of the Clarion: Tune 'em out, turn 'em off

Reality shows pollute planet; time for revolution at network TV

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2005

Network TV was an incredibly cool experiment that has gone horribly wrong for the time being.

Viewers are being fed some creepy shows, and I don't understand how someone can justify pumping this junk through the universe. The garbage is widely known as "reality TV," but is more akin to lab rat experiments. So I will refer to these shows as "rat nasty."

In rat nasty, you see people at their worst. I've never been a big fan of sticking people in false situations to see their emotional heart torn out of their chest. This is the result of rat nasty like "American Idol" and "America's Top Model," where young people are promised a chance to prove themselves and are subsequently told how awful they are and how big a waste their efforts have been.

What's the sense in that? And what do these repugnant shows have to do with America? If they're supposed to be funny, I've missed the point.

It is a wicked experiment. These fools who snag 15 minutes on a reality show represent the least common denominator. They will do practically anything to be remembered for those 15 TV minutes (20 minutes if they eat a plate of rotting roadkill wriggling with worms) as seen on another real winner, "Fear Factor."

In the words of musician Beck Hansen, I would rather "shave my face with some mace in the dark" than be seen in rat nasty. This aversion to rotten TV comes from the lukewarm effort put into them.

I decided to crawl out of my two-year absence from television and see what was up with America's best friend, the Tube. It was a bright blue Tuesday afternoon not long ago. The day was soft and cool and pleading me outdoors. But no, I decided to inject myself with cheap TV and get down on my rat nasty homework.

Exhibit A: The first evidence that TV had done its sickly spin down the slime void revealed itself immediately.

It was an advertisement for a new series about a young lady who never knew her father. Then, like wolves and sales representatives, a host of guys (one of whom actually may be her estranged father) try to prove their case to little red riding hood. The rat nasty is called "Who's My Daddy," and it will certainly suck.

Exhibit B: "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette," the bachelor's baby's mama's sister's cousin. It's a meat-market mentality. I could have sworn modern-day society left that behind. These singles line up like the cattle they are, pitching their sale — their lives — to someone they hardly know, while millions watch. The only word that describes it is scummy.

Exhibit C: The network cradles then whips back and attacks obese people, backhandedly. "The Biggest Loser" is a rat show for America's largest of the large who can still get around without the aid of a Little Rascal scooter. So you've got two teams of giant human beings competing to lose inches, possibly feet, from their waistlines. If you don't lose enough pounds: you lose all together and have to go home in shame.

So here is what the show says about the country. Americans are fat. Americans are competitive. Americans will kick other Americans out of a competition for not losing enough weight. Americans get a kick out of seeing people in shame. Did I miss something here? Or is it just that stupid? It's actually Gestapo like.

Is this supposed to be some act of brilliance or magical breakthrough? Surely there is something more to do with this TV invention ... but what?!

Exhibit D: "Wife Swap." Yeah. Wife swap. This is something my parents used to warn me about. They said our neighbors were into that. Apparently, the networks have gotten a greater audience into it, selling more of these snap-together shows all the time. This is like "Trading Spouses" on NBC, a network that invested in well over 200 reality shows, all of which stink like rancid bear fat.

It's cheaper to snag a frat guy off the beaches of a Tijuana spring break party and not pay him to be on a show than it is to hire an actor to make it good and pay them. Simple economics explains that it is cheaper to not be creative, cheaper to not think up new shows, cheaper to maintain the status quo, cheaper to not take a risk.

TV's due for a revolution — one that will change it for the better.

Or, maybe this is a foretaste of the feast to come. Maybe this is a glimpse into the future where privacy ceases to exist, where no secret is safe, where all people do is talk about other people. Count me out.

Take your "Wife Swap," your road to fake stardom, your unpaid faux actors, especially take all that attitude and be gone — and stay gone.

Besides, this rat nasty all looks the same. There's some ridiculous challenge, then a winner, then the loser has a teary-eyed walk of shame away from the camera with some heartfelt music undertones. A-B-C, 1-2-3, it's just that simple. No surprises.

I'm glad I checked in with pop culture. Now, here's me checking back out.

Layton Ehmke is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.



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