Lowering the Bar to the Basement
by Yank Wildebeest
illustration by Johnny Destructo
THE 2006-07 REALITY TV season is off to an exceptionally mindless gallop, despite the anemic protestations of a concerned but apathetic minority. Fuck the concerned but apathetic minority! They’re watching too, even if they turn their righteous and thought-burdened heads away in disgust every now and then.
This year’s spawning shows lower the limbo bar of tastefulness and dignity almost straight to the ground. Though borrowing a few gags from the Theatre of the Absurd, reality TV lacks the philosophical contours of the productions of Beckett and Ionesco, or even the faintest sonar blip of meaningfulness. But what reality TV lacks in importance, it more than makes up for in pretense and lunacy.
Any studious viewer of the new season can gather a glorious bundle of important life lessons. As life deals its inevitable sequence of shit cards, it is important to maintain your inner strength and focus by being pathologically self-absorbed, ferociously catty, unfettered by the boring limitations of conscience, demonically ambitious and utterly without shame. In a rat-eat-rat world, it’s the sociopaths who truly get ahead. And, really, why be alive at all if you are not ahead?
Other important moral insights to be gleaned by this new century’s cathode-addict children include the following:
• Nothing is more entertaining than the humiliation of another human being.
• Just as it is far better to watch Friends than to have friends, it is far better, or at least cleaner and safer, to be aroused by pixilated body parts than to get the Full Monty of an actual human body in your face. Far less smelly, too.
• The word “reality” now means offensive people in ludicrous and unlikely situations.
• You can be superficial, base, vicious and petty, yet still perceive yourself as likeable and entertaining.
• If you are not getting enough attention and people don’t seem to like you very much, try going into a relentless histrionic rage or taking off all your clothes.
• Fame is more important than dignity. Wealth is more important than health.
• If you are not good-looking and thin you should just die right now, and spare people the unpleasantness of having to deal with you at all.
But this isn’t a critique; it’s a celebration! At long last, the ignored and shallow have a forum to express their deeper inanity and fashion sense. Just be sure that, along with the wonderful regular shows you have come to know and tough-love, you check these new additions that skip the dawdling prattle and cut straight to our cultural core.
The definitive reality show of our milieu. Sullen, bovine and inert Americans compete to be the next most apathetic, morose, resource-devouring American Idle. The nation’s elite tier of couch potatoes compete in compelling competitions to determine the most vacuous TV addict, the most successful eater while lying down, the person least likely to form an opinion, and the most motionless person during an emergency. The final winner, or total loser, is determined by the votes of the viewing audience, who coincidentally are also sullen, bovine, and inert.
The Great American Wal-Mart Employee Search
Tyra Banks, Donald Trump, George Hamilton and Kato Kaelin insult, ridicule and torment a group of the increasingly common desperately poor as they jump through a labyrinth of hoops in hopes of winning a job at Wal-Mart without healthcare.
Serial Killer House
Everyone loves the witty, brilliant and insightful house show Big Brother. But more people should be appreciating Serial Killer House, a new show that is just as entertaining and controversial, along with being far more savagely violent. Famous death-row serial killers are given free run of a suburban household in a thrilling contest to see who can remain on the show longest and win the reduction of their death sentences to mere life imprisonment. Unlike their death-row cells, the house contains knives, ropes, guns, chainsaws, biological warfare agents, and a nice collection of poisons. “Can’t we just all get along?” Jeffery Dahmer says to Charlie Manson in the riveting Episode 1. Apparently not!
We can’t get enough of our glorious celebrities! At long last, here’s a show that gives us the real dirt on celebs we’ve been dying to know. You can’t get much dirtier than an anus, and Celebrity Anus uses a Beverly Hills proctologist and a famous fashion photographer to examine, probe and reveal the anuses of several almost A-list celebrities. The viewing audience gets to participate, along with the C-list celebrity panel, in trying to guess, in a series of increasingly revealing clues, which anus belongs to which celebrity. Is that dirty hole Angelina’s or Brad’s? See if you can be the first to recognize your favorite star’s secret backside smile. First-season panelists include Jamie Farr, Barbara Walters, Christina Aguilera and P Diddy.
The Reel World
Well, not every reality show this season worked out. I have to admit, I had high hopes for The Reel World, which takes the MTV show of a similar name to a more mature market. In this spinoff, aging fishing enthusiasts are forced to live together in a small RV while roaming the country for great fishing spots. Sounded like a no-lose formula for madcap fun, high jinks and catty controversy. However, as the first episodes played out, there were more quiet evenings, extended footage of nothing at all, and serious napping than any of the producers had anticipated.
Black Death House
Streets filled with rotting corpses. Unattended, deranged livestock. Deadly plague-carrying rats around every corner. Welcome to life in 1357! With the runaway success of Colonial House, PBS has tossed together another acclaimed, compelling and educational period-reality show in which modern families are forced to experience the difficulties and challenges of life in the days of yore. Black Death House painstakingly recreates the stressful times of the Black Plague in the 1350s, when one third of Europe died gruesome and untreatable deaths. Laugh aloud and learn a little, too, as you watch families abandon each other in horror, decompose into bulbous black lumps, dodge plague-riddled slimy sputum as it spews from the orifices of the dying, run madly away from leering rats, or simply pile their neighbors’ festering corpses into wooden carts on the way to the burn pile. This show may change some of your misconceptions about the plague years, and help you lose weight by seriously suppressing your appetite forever.
Yank Wildebeest has been commenting on Bay Area culture for several hours now, between TV breaks.