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The Column

They're Real, and They're Spectacular
5/11/03

When I perform, I ask the audience to applaud if they watch reality TV. I have yet to hear more than three people clap for this. I used to think that a lot of people watched reality TV and just didn't admit to it. Then I realized that the majority of people who watch reality TV don't have the wherewithal it takes to make both of their hands meet repeatedly.

At some point, they're going to run out of ideas for these shows. Networks have already exhausted the different ways they can jam people together - on an island, in a house, with a mouse, in a box, on Fox. The idea of eliminating characters is also getting stale since we never get to see these annoying people eliminated in the true sense of the word. Now wouldn't that be a good show?

"Well, we all voted, and you're going to die. However, if you complete this challenge, we'll only maim you and you can go on to compete another week right here on the Anna Nicole Smith Show."

The recent trend has been towards professions, with upcoming shows following the staff of a restaurant and a competition to see who can be Donald Trump's personal assistant. I expect next season to bring us "The Reality Reality Show," in which writers vie to see who can come up with the best premise for America's next televised proof of cultural depravity. No matter who wins, we lose.

The inherent problem with reality TV is that it's not real at all. The premises are so farfetched that even Fox executives are starting to doubt them. Take Joe Millionaire - yes, guys often lie about what they earn to impress women. But those claims are usually made while sharing French fries and not a French mansion. I want to see real reality TV - shows about what actually happens in the world.

How about a program called "The Jersey Weekend," where a carload of teenagers drive around desperately looking for something to do. The drama mounts as the kids creep closer and closer to curfew until they finally end up at the same diner as they did last week.

If city life is more your thing, why not watch "The Rush Hour Commute," where hundreds of irate New Yorkers grapple for subway seats, breathing room, and a place to stand that's suitably far away from the smelly guy. An alternate version of this show would be shot in Los Angeles, where the entire hour is spent sitting on the shoulder of the 405.

Or how about "The Actual Bachelor?" A 30-something man chooses between 40 women, none of whom return his phone calls. The dramatic season finale features him beating it to Internet porn.

The point here is that real people are really boring. And if you don't believe me, think about your life for a second. You are a real person. And you are really boring. When you get a phone call and someone asks what's up, how often do you answer with anything other than a version of "same old?" Occasionally someone you know gets married (hopefully to someone sans mask), and sometimes you actually go to a ballgame or a museum or somewhere that isn't the same bar with the same people you've been hanging out with for the last several years. Next time someone asks me what I've been up to, I'm going to tell them my life has been pretty real lately.

"Yeah, we all voted that Dave can't drink with us anymore. Oh, and Susan ate a whole bunch of spiders. And then John got a record contract."

When you watch reality TV, you are living vicariously through people who are living fake real lives. At least when you watch a sit-com, there are no promises of reality. On a sit-com, the majority of the characters are quick-witted with biting senses of humor, and that doesn't exist in real life. If we were all that quick-witted, we'd also be clever enough to change the channel.

Ever since Real World III, I've said I wanted to be on the show, if for no other reason than to make fun of the freaks with whom I'd be living. And with all these new shows, I still stand by that desire - because I would be able to admit how ridiculous everyone was for being a part of it. I may even get raucous applause for doing so.

If only the people watching knew how.

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