Ten Reasons to Fear a Longterm Writers’ Strike
As Hollywood begins to truly face the reality of what could be an extended writers’ strike, the television studios will have to decide what to play when they run out of material for their most popular shows. Possibilities include re-runs, movies, and shows that have either failed or been passed over, with scripts already prepared and purchased. A dark possibility, though, may be a new spike in reality programming that relies minimally, if at all, on union writers. The process that weeded out the worst such programming to leave a handful of powerhouse reality programs (American Idol, Survivor, and The Amazing Race undoubtedly leading the pack) could well be reversed if the strike endures for too long. With this in mind, to show just how grim it could get, this article revisits the ten (really eleven, but I link two of them) worst reality shows during the genre’s boom period. Writers and studios, please do not let this happen again.
- The Real Beverly Hillbillies
This show, thankfully, never happened, or it would rank much higher on the list. I include it here in part to remind everyone that it is ideas that have not yet made it to television that could emerge if the networks (a) run out of saved material and want to air something original, or (b) choose to stick it to striking writers as a negotiating ploy by trying to show they can succeed anyway.
The concept behind The Real Beverly Hillbillies was to take a backwoods family, transplant them to Beverly Hills, and watch mean-spirited hilarity ensue. While we never saw the show air, one can be assured that the family chosen would be chosen to do poorly in its new surroundings, probably with the added delight of tempers that flared up whenever possible; depicted in the most prejudicial way possible; and shown later in its run with awkward moments of crying and explaining why they missed their former life in an attempt to redeem the show emotionally. Regardless, it so offended political leaders that the backlash kept the show from airing.
- Average Joe
Throw a pretty girl in with a bunch of normal (or below)-looking guys, later add a group of vapid “hunks,” and let the girl decide whether appearance or substance is more important. The show is on the list in part for making it for too many seasons, and in part for supporting far too many stereotypes regarding appearance versus substance. On the other hand, it is relatively low on the list for the fantastic “Fabio moment” at the end of Season Two, when the chosen “hunk” flipped out after learning his prize lady once dated Fabio – and told America he knew every guy would feel the same. Wow.
- Joe Millionaire
This is another social experiment, this time regarding whether love or money is more important. Of course, the experiment is skewed a little because “love” had to develop over the course of a reality show season, and because it involved women looking to marry a man they thought was a millionaire – and who lied to them about this throughout the show. The producers tried to redeem the bachelor of choice by showing him agonizing over his having to lie, but the show itself cannot be redeemed.
- Celebrity Mole
If I am going to watch Corbin Bernson, it really should involve either L.A. Law or Major League. Kathy Griffin was wonderful, but it was despite the show and the rest of the cast. If I want to see Stephen Baldwin, I . . . . Frankly, I just cannot think of a reason I would want to see Stephen Baldwin. This took a decent show, replaced regular people with former and quasi-celebrities, and ran it into the ground.
- Married By America
This requires no explanation. The only thing worse than trying to have love develop on a reality show is trying to let viewers decide where love is developing based on the footage they see during the show. I still like to think that this show never happened.
- Temptation Island
This is among the more disgusting ideas ever put on television – a heady achievement, to be sure. Four “committed couples” go to a remote island location to see who might be tempted by hotties to stray. Leaving aside what “committed” might mean to couples who choose to go on the show, the notion of cash prizes depending on whether a couple can be broken is more than a little disconcerting.
- Mr. Personality
This social purpose show, in which all the men wore masks when around the beautiful lady, tried to demonstrate how different a woman’s dating choices would be if she were unable to see her suitors’ faces or know their career status. Of course, it did not take into account that confidence and bearing are developed over time, and not easily undone over the course of a reality show. In the end, then, the rich, good-looking one had the “best personality.” The promotions helped the show exploit not only the reality boom, but the (in)famous host as well: “Who better to host this show than Monica Lewinsky?”
3b. Who Wants to Marry My Dad?
“Dad, I think you need a new wife. We miss Mom too, but even though we loved her, we think that, if you are unwilling to try to upgrade from your memories, we are going to put you on TV and make choices for you. Frankly, we think we’re better judges of whom you should marry than you are.” It still amazes me that dear old Dad went with this one. Sadly, though, this is not even the worst “Who Wants to Marry” show.
3a. Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?
That honor goes to this little slice of cynicism. In a world in which women are quickly becoming men’s career equals (or better), this show worked to try to put feminism back in its place. While the concept itself was ugly, the worst aspect of the show was its foisting of Darva Conger onto the world. By the time her television tour of pleading for a return of her privacy, I was no longer limited to throwing up in my mouth. What a mess.
- Are You Hot?
The top two places will both go toward personal image shows. This one was relatively simple: people impressed with their own physiques parade before judges to show off their wares, get ridiculed, and ultimately decide who is, in fact, the hottest non-celebrity in America willing to degrade him/herself for a reality show. If ever a show mattered . . . . What really vaulted this show to the near-pinnacle of this list, though, can be summed up in two words: Lorenzo Lamas. So THAT’S where he was.
- The Swan
For pure nastiness, though, this show will (I hope) never be topped. Search for people who really want to be better-looking, pick the saddest cases among them, and show America that plastic surgery is the key to making everyone less ugly. Show the best-skilled cosmetic surgeons at work (and this is not to denigrate that profession, as undoubtedly they do some important work), and see the ugly ducklings become beautiful. Still, something more takes this show to the top: the pageant. Once everyone is beautiful, the show goes on to pick the one who is most beautiful – thus preventing everyone else’s self-esteem from reaching too high.