It's the latest in entertainment --
By Debra LoGuercio
©Copyright 2004, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved
Just when you think humanity couldn't possibly sink any lower, the next crop of reality TV shows submerges us even farther below the surface of civility. The morbid attraction of all this Coliseum-esque entertainment escapes me. I'm not interested in watching a scantily-clad supermodel gag on rodent dung. You call that a "Fear Factor"? I just call it gross.
The grand-daddy of all the reality TV shows, "Survivor," stranded a group of folks on an island, armed with only their bare wits, to see who'd outlast the others. That concept had some promise, but when I discovered people could vote each other off the island, I lost interest. "Survivor" wasn't truly a competition like a horse race or tennis match, it was merely a rough-around-the-edges popularity contest. Bo-ring.
Since the wild success of "Survivor," reality TV shows have mutated into everything from mercilessly humiliating aspiring singers until only the one most likely to play the county fair circuit remains ("American Idol") to showing how average, normal-looking women can be nipped and tucked into cookie-cutter bimbos ("The Swan") so they can go live together in a mansion and further degrade themselves by competing for the attention of some insipid, spoiled rich boy who, in the end, will only pick the thinnest, most buxom blond anyway ("The Bachelor").
I ask you, do the results of these reality TV shows really matter? Will they uplift the human condition on any level? Will they cure cancer or end Third World starvation or even make your breath minty fresh? No. They will, however, waste hours and hours of your life that you could have spent playing with your kids or reading or participating in any other activity on earth that might be more enriching than watching washed-up sitcom stars play cards ("Celebrity Poker"). Like staring at your navel.
But it's like screaming into the wind. Reality TV prevails. On a recent Tonight Show, Jay Leno asked the audience how many people had watched the President's recent televised address. A few folks clapped. Then he asked how many people watched the final episode of "The Apprentice." Thunderous applause ensued.
Leno shook his head in disbelief and quipped, "We get what we deserve."
Not so fast, Jay. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Maybe all this reality TV nonsense can be transformed into something that might actually make a difference in the world.
As always, I have a plan.
To steal a line from "Name That Tune," a staple from another era in lame television when game shows were king, I can solve the world's problems in two notes: "Spiritual Survivor." Unlike all the other reality TV shows that, in the end, offer us basically nothing, my show delivers a huge prize: world peace. Here's how it works.
Rather than all the perpetual violence raging on in the Middle East in God's name, we'll end the conflict once and for all. On a deserted island, we place a representative from each of the major religions. The last one standing wins and, by default, so does his or her God. That's who the rest of us will worship from here on out, end of story, no more bloodshed and strife, or any more of this "My God can beat up your God" foolishness.
Right off the bat, we lose the Buddhist. She informs us that arguing about God isn't the point and flags down the first slow-boat outta there, joined by the Hindu who bows out because even in the event that he kicked everyone's hiney, all that violence would only cause him bad karma anyway.
As they sail away on their little boat of non-violence, co-captained by an agnostic and an atheist singing "Imagine," the Muslim, the Jew and the Christian are left to face off: "Tonight at 8 -- it's a Holy Hootenanny of Hatred! Spiritual Survivor!" murmurs the Growly Guy who is apparently the only voice-over actor employed in all of television to read teasers.
For the next few weeks we'll tune in to watch the remaining three zealots kick, slash and punch the tar out of each other, locked in battle like three cats with their tails tied together and slung over the clothesline.
Of course, we'll stretch the drama out as long as possible, because we can move a lot of Budweiser and Viagra during the commercial breaks. In the end, everyone's happy. The advertisers will make a fortune. The Israelis and the Palestinians can take a much-needed break from burying their dead. Our guys overseas can take a breather, and the Sunnis and the Shiites can go back to squabbling amongst themselves.
Well, not everyone's happy. Like the viewers. Because, just like all the other lame-o reality TV shows, there's a surprise twist when "Spiritual Survivor" concludes. We tune in to the final installment. Our three bloodied competitors, gasping and wheezing, declare victory for God or Allah or Yahweh with their last dying breaths. We clasp our hands in anticipation for the big moment and here it comes! Surprise! Nobody wins.
Bring in the caskets and roll the credits.
Post your remarks about this column on Debra's web board