Reality television programs have become unreal

November 30, 2006|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

There are now something like 10,000 reality shows on TV, and the whole stupid concept shows no signs of going away soon.

Apparently no subject is too ridiculous or mundane that it can't be turned into a reality show anymore.

With the click of the remote, you can now watch people sing badly, traipse through mosquito-infested jungles, get their cheeks sucked out and their stomachs tucked, and have their houses made over by professional design geeks.

You can watch wives swap families, fat people lose weight, cops pull over drunk drivers, and celebrities dance the tango.

You can watch couples get married, people get fired, bounty hunters track fugitives, and budding fashion designers compete against each other.

And every time you watch one of these shows and think, OK, that has to be the dumbest show I've ever seen, they come out with a show that's even dumber.

In fact, there's probably no idea you could pitch to a reality TV producer where he'd reply: "Gee, I don't know. That might be too dumb."

If you said to the producer: "Hey, how about a show about a bunch of people picking up the leaves in their neighborhood in the fall, OK, and some of them use rakes and some use leaf-blowers, and the rakers really hate the leaf-blowers?" he'd probably nod thoughtfully.

Then he'd start scribbling a few notes on the back of a cocktail napkin.

Then one day you'd click on the Outdoor Channel and there'd be a new reality show called, I don't know, Leaf Wars or something, with a lot of people in flannel shirts and jeans standing around big piles of leaves bickering with each other.

Here's how crazy this whole reality TV thing has gotten.

I was in a diner in southern New York State last week - true story - when the waiter accidentally spilled a soda while serving a couple sitting in the next booth.

The waiter apologized profusely.

But the male half of the couple - there's a big upset - became irate.

He really let the waiter have it.

The soda hadn't even spilled on him, either. It had just spilled on the table.

But that didn't stop Mr. Calm from standing, throwing a couple of bills on the table and storming out with his wife.

You could see the waiter was pretty shook up about the incident.

But as he was cleaning up the mess, another waiter came up to him.

"Dude," the second waiter said, "this could be a reality show! You know, two guys working in a diner! And it would be about the things they do all day, and the stuff they have to put up with from customers, stuff like that!"

Oh, it was a beautiful moment.

And the guy looked like he was serious.

So then I started to imagine a reality series about two guys who work in a diner.

I imagined a jerky camera following them around as they filled the little silver milk containers on the counter and made sure the little racks of sugar and Sweet'N Low were full.

We'd see them serving bacon and eggs and pancakes and BLT sandwiches all day long, and grumbling when some cheapskate customer didn't tip them enough.

And maybe we'd see a little drama every once in a while when they screwed up and brought the wrong order to a table, or accidentally spilled a coffee, or when the owner of the diner got on their case about not clearing the tables fast enough.

OK, it didn't sound that riveting to me.

But the thing is, some people would watch it.

Oh, I have absolutely no doubt about that.

If people will sit and watch a chunky girl in a T-shirt and shorts step on a scale and exult because she's lost a few pounds, they'll watch two young guys hustling out of a steamy diner kitchen, their arms laden with plates of Western omelets, chicken salad sandwiches and cheeseburgers and fries.

Now that's entertainment.

Well, at least these days it is.

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