OpEd Columns

The Ten Reality TV Shows You'll Never See
(Indianapolis Star 1/31/04)

How long can it last, this endless winter of reality TV programming? Each sweeps period new shows emerge from the subterraneous minds of network producers, lowering the standards of mindless entertainment to unseen depths.
Do a search on the internet and you'll find 176 reality shows with their own websites. The airwaves are packed. The bandwith is maxed out. The sea of reality scenarios has been drained. Indeed, it's come down to this.
Only ten reality shows remain to be made.
These are the last dinosaurs of a dying species. Once all ten make it to primetime, reality television shall be extinct. Until then, get ready for "Survivor 18: The Suburbs", and "Junior Native American Idol All-Stars".
Know the end is near when you see the following:
The Promo: Billy's throwing the game!
The Premise: The Grand Valley Insurance team keeps losing and every parent in the stands knows who to blame…or do they? Is it Jerry, the local insurance agent and team manager? Is it Justin the pitcher who walked in 12 runs Saturday? How 'bout Bobby the second baseman who's struck out 23 consecutive times? Is he just bad, or is he The Mole?
The Prize: Ice cream cones for the whole team.
The Promo: What do you get when you cross The Bachelor with Fear Factor?
The Premise: 25 scorching single women in Miami each have a cockroach infestation problem. Enter The Exterminator. Armed with bronze biceps and a tank of insecticide, the buff twenty-something makes his way through the women's personal spaces in search of the evasive arthropods…and, of course, a wife.
The Prize: A pest-free Disney Cruise for two.
The Promo: Getting hitched with 12 items or less
The Premise: Average Romeos are given a free shopping spree through Wal-Mart where they pick up twelve items they'll need for an unforgettable honeymoon. Once their cart is full, they must make the decision of their lives. Blindly choose a checkout lane where their bride-to-be is ready to scan their goods.
The Prize A lifetime of "rollin' back the prices".
The Promo: Flipside of the Fab Five.
The Premise: Four lovable lesbians barhop across the country, from TGI Friday's-to- Applebee's-to-Bennigan's, overhauling the pathetic pick-up lines of middle aged salesmen.
The Prize: A real conversation with a female friend.
The Promo: You want to have kids? You got 'em.
The Premise: Four freshly knotted couples experience honeymoon hell when their trip to Sandals Jamaica turns into a week long apprenticeship at Sandy Beach Day Care. Who gets the annulment first?
The Prize: Birth control for life.
The Promo: Smeller's the fella.
The Premise: Shared among the ladies and men on the 18th floor, the office bathroom is a place for peace and privacy, that is, until our cameras catch the not-so-sanitary habits of corporate comrades. After viewing the shocking potty visits of the previous week , the accountants toss someone's tush out of the john.
The Prize:Your own personal stall.
The Promo: Fix your competitor's Future Trak.
The Premise: Unable to decipher snow from sun, struggling TV meteorologists try to help each other out with a weekend weather station makeover.
The Prize: An accurate forecast.
The Promo: Who's Hot and Who's High?
The Premise: California State Trooper Chuck travels incognito throughout Los Angeles searching for our favorite Hollywood celebrities. Posing as a waiter, chauffeur, personal trainer and yoga instructor, Chuck gains the trust of the stars then turns on them with a random drug test. Follow the specimen cup to the lab where we find out who's straight and who's headed straight to re-hab.
The Prize: No jail time.
The Promo: Making grandma mobile
The Premise: Eight competing cell phone reps must convince a nursing home full of elderly tech-nots to purchase their convoluted mobile phone plans…and teach them how to use the handsfree function.
The Prize: 1000 extra anytime minutes and a free phone (after rebate).
The Promo: Celibacy meets Survivor
The Premise: Duped into believing they're going on a prayerful retreat before taking final vows, 16 young clerics-to-be are dumped off on the Las Vegas Strip with nothing but their faith. Each week, after losing a casino challenge, one brother is booted at parish council. Outwit, Outlast, Outpray.
The Prize: Eternal life…and an end to reality television.

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.
Copyright 2004 Ted Mandell

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