Once upon a time, five years ago, there were sitcoms.
Then the popularity of Survivor demonstrated how the American public inhaled and consumed reality television as if it were a gourmet meal.
Three years and 100 reality shows later, reality television provides an escape from everyday life as well as thousands of dollars in producers’ pockets. As a 10-year-old, I thought The Real World and Road Rules were one of a kind. But today, successful sitcoms are one of a kind.
The lure of a reality television is enticing for those seeking 15 minutes of fame or a monetary prize. Survivor contestants were on television for four months, on a late night talk show for 15 minutes and forgotten about by the American public shortly afterwards.
Reality television used to show the extreme with contestants on Fear Factor earning $50,000 by eating beef brains or lying in a tank of dead squid. Having no new ideas, reality television producers give viewers the same shows with different titles.
Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire was a hit show that led to a divorce, a Playboy spread and copycats such as Who Wants to Marry my Dad and the upcoming show Who Wants to Date a Hooters Girl. A combination show called Who Wants my Dad to Marry a Hooters Girl should be the next project.
As more shows emerged, trends developed among them. The most popular is the reality dating show, pioneered by Blind Date. A Dating Story on The Learning Channel is more or less Blind Date for older adults.
Instead of going to a Jacuzzi to discuss sex, daters go to a restaurant to discuss their occupations. That’s exactly why A Dating Story is overshadowed by Temptation Island, featuring picture perfect couples who want to earn $100,000 by being on national television. Recently, The Bachelorette and Joe Millionaire involved “sexy” singles letting the shows’ producers select potential mates for them to choose from.
So far the original Joe Millionaire is lost somewhere in fad history with the Macarena and Tickle Me Elmo. Even Monica Lewinsky hosted Mr. Personality this year. Monica, I’ll make you a deal. You stick to selling handbags, and I’ll stick to writing editorials.
Reality shows that don’t fall into one of the trends seem to get lost in television history. I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here!, Houston Medical, The Mole and Last Comic Standing are joining the ill-advised American Fighter Pilot as forgotten reality television. Survivor continues to be America’s most popular reality television show, with more than 20 million viewers tuning in last week.
Casting for upcoming reality shows occurs daily. A new prime time reality show for ABC invites potential contestants over 21 to “earn $100,000 for testing your relationship. That’s right, you read this correctly. You and your boyfriend/girlfriend will take home $100,000 just for testing your commitment to each other and completing the series.”
All you have to submit is a description of your relationship, a picture and contact information. The lack of details is astonishing. But more importantly, isn’t there already a show like this?
Stephanie Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.