The Malcontent: Rebranding Reality TV


I am alternately horrified and enthralled by the impending downfall of Western Civilization, a process I occasionally like to prod along in some small, but I hope, ultimately meaningful, way.

In various print columns I have both decried the commercialization of Christmas, and urged the indiscriminate bombing of one or more Balkan nations by our next president; condemned the reckless egomania of athletes, and demanded my own fawning cult of personality; admonished our current president for his messianic ineptitude, and cited that same ineptitude as an inspiration to my career as a writer. So while I may find reality television and its corrosive effect on the American psyche alarming, I can appreciate its intrinsic value as a yardstick to measure just how close we’ve gotten to the absolute bottom of the barrel.

One trend I endorse––in much the same way that the sound of screeching tires in the distance causes one to root for a subsequent loud crash––is the simplification and clarification of the names of these television shows. Opaque, metaphoric titles like “Survivor” and “American Idol” have fallen by the wayside, as the preferred nomenclature tends towards brief, declarative plot synopses, like “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” or “Scott Baio is 46 and Pregnant.” Were “Survivor” to debut now, it might be called “Unbearable People Eat Insects for the Chance to Win Money.” “American Idol” could very well be “The Torch Song Screech-Along Hour,” or, “Quiet, Y’all, My Baby Cousin Shawnecia’s On TV.” Connoisseurs of depravity and the failure of the human spirit probably recognized a similar trend in hardcore pornography some years back when titles progressed from generically suggestive (“Mouthwatering”, “Shaved Bunnies”) to perhaps too bluntly descriptive (“Anal Cum Sluts Fellate Allen Iverson, Vol. 4”).

Always one to help my fellow man, I’ve put a lot of thought into this new method of reality television titling, and I’ve come up with some catchy new monikers for ailing institutions seeking to rebrand themselves as more user-friendly ratings titans:

“The Real World” = “The Two Hot Chicks Make Out in the Jacuzzi Halfway Through the Second Episode and It’s Pretty Much Downhill from There.”

“Fear Factor” = “How Much Is Your Dignity Worth to You? Yeah, We Can Pay You that Much.”

“Dancing with the Stars” = “Dancing with that One Guy from that One Soap Opera that Mom Used to Watch—You Know the Guy I’m Talking About—and that Really Bitchy Girl Who Was in that Reality Show We Used to Watch on Tuesdays. What Do You Mean You Don’t Remember?”

“To Catch a Predator” = “Self-Righteous Prick Who Will Eventually Be Disgraced in a Sex Scandal Lashes Out at Other Sexual Deviants.”

“30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray” = “John Fantasizes About Slipping Rachael Ray’s Mom Jeans Off Her While Repeatedly Mentioning to His Roommates that that Chili Looks Delicious.”

“Take Home Chef” = “Surprise! I’ve Made Some Delicious Crepes…and I’m Fucking Your Girlfriend”

“The Biggest Loser” = “You’re Watching a TV Show About Fat People on Diets? Are You Fucking Kidding Me? And You’re Actually Sitting There Munching a Bag of Cheetos While You’re Watching It. Christ, You’re Such a Fat Fucking Loser.”

Of course I’ve never been one to just sit back and nitpick at the work and creativity of others; I’ve always got a few ideas of my own, and I’d be glad to discuss development deals with any television executives seeking to further bludgeon the American attention span with the broad side of stupid:

“How Much Raw Beef Can You Pack into the Back of this Hummer?”

“Latent Homosexual Frat Boys Punch Each Other in the Crotch”

“Jagermeister and Daddy Issues Mix Violently in Cancun.”

“Hit Your Best Friend in the Face with a Brick and We’ll Give You Like $150”

“Stuck Up Bitches with Purses that Cost More Than Your Car Strut Through Hotel Lobbies”

“Kids from Hope High School Harass and Intimidate Brown Students on Thayer Street.” (Rhode Island public access only)

“Stop Snitchin’! with Carmelo Anthony”

“How Low Will this Washed Up Celebrity Stoop Just Be on VH-1 at 11:30 on Wednesday Night?”

“The Two Hot Chicks Make Out in the Jacuzzi Halfway Through the Second Episode and It’s Pretty Much Downhill from There.” (Canceled after two episodes)

My pièce de résistance, however, is a show I like to call “The Hyper-Real World.” Seven strangers with a variety of substance-abuse problems will be picked to live in a house where they will be provided with a garish and irresponsible supply of drugs and placed in a series of high-pressure situations. In the pilot episode, they will be divided into two teams––Team PCP and Team Cigarettes Dipped in Formaldehyde––and forced to rescue two babies who have fallen down wells. Hilarity ensues.

2 thoughts on “The Malcontent: Rebranding Reality TV”

  1. Chris Hansen is a hero and you should be ashamed of yourself for what you wrote about him in this article. Have you no sense of decency? I bet not after that awful thing you wrote.

    Hang your head in shame. You have no business attacking Chris Hansen, a man who has done so much for society. I am getting nauseous thinking about how somebody could bring themselves to write what you wrote about my hero. You bum.

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