Tell a FriendLeigh AnneLeigh Anne Jasheway ~ Queen of Stress

Reality Bites

"Reality programming" is the hottest thing in Hollywood since the Lee Press-On dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammy awards. There are obvious reasons for the move away from sitcoms and hour-long dramas to unscripted shows in which complete strangers argue over who forgot to put the lid on the toothpaste or who had the last deep-fat fried rat. For one, without a script, there is no need for pesky writers and actors. Ask anyone in television programming and theyíll tell you thereís nothing that slows down the creative process more than people who are creative.

With reality programming, instead of having to come up with new plots and story lines every week (weíll pretend this used to happen), television producers worry about simpler things, such as where to locate the shower-cam for the best shot. These are the kinds of uncomplicated decisions that 23-year old television producers prefer. Is it any wonder that weíre not longer referred to as viewers, but as voyeurs?

The latest entry into the reality programming arena is CBSís Big Brother. This show, set to air in July, takes ten complete strangers, throws them into a house in Los Angeles, and turns on the cameras 24/7. This premise reminds me of my dadís third marriage: "Okay, listen up. These kids are your stepbrothers and sisters now, so treat Ďem nice. Oh, and, Leigh Anne, youíll have to stop that one over there. People might think weíre trailer trash. Okay, now run outside and tie this thing down before the tornado hits."

If Big Brother sounds familiar, it should be. MTVís been doing it for years. But their roomies are younger and hipper than the ones that will probably appear in CBSís show. After all, CBS is the station of Bill Cosby, Angela Lansbury and Dick Van Dyke. Big Brother is more likely to feature the roommates fighting over the hemorrhoid cream than over who gets to pierce their tongue with the nailgun next.

But Big Brother has one thing MTVís __________ did not. The stink of money. The grand prize winner gets $500,000. Second place is 100,000, third place 50,000 and the remaining seven contestants get $350 a week for each week they spend in the house. Iím not sure how the winner is chosen; perhaps there are challenges like in the other CBS show, Survivor, and then everyone votes someone out. The roommate who over-tips the guy who delivers the sushi could be out of there faster than you can say, "Bad blowfish!" I imagine anyone who leaves pantyhose and bras in the shower would quickly be booted off the show, especially if his name is Fred or Dennis. Not knowing the complete CBS fall line-up might also be cause for immediate removal. One way or another, though, the winner will probably be whoever looks best in the shower.

Even before the show began, the ten roommates had to submit themselves to challenges. Each consented to extensive physical and mental examinations conducted in Los Angeles by the police department, uh, I mean by medical professionals. It didnít help that these medical professionals consisted of a disreputable plastic surgeon and a dental hygienist. Hey, this is LA. If you donít have perfect pecs, ass, and teeth, you canít get a job as a janitor.

Then, there were the background checks. Having seen what happened over at Fox when they failed to investigate the millionaire groom (actually, nothing really happened, and entertainment lawyers everywhere had to rent out their guest houses just to afford to keep their yachts detailed), Big Brotherís producers didnít want to take any chances. The producers checked out the rap sheets, credit histories, report cards, weight loss statistics, stock portfolios, and Elton John records of each contestant. Then, they looked at their CD collection. Oh, wait, this is CBS, they donít have CDs.

I donít know about you, but Iím not planning to watch Big Brother. Not when Fox has counter-programmed with "Meth House," a new show in which seven junkies and an ex-cop gone bad are thrown together to see who can get drugs on the street quickest. And NBC has responded with "Group Therapy," highlighting the real psychological issues of real people who live in Hollywood and look good lying on a couch. And, the coup de gras, UPNís entry into reality programming is "The Pitch," in which TV executives pitch ideas for more stupid reality shows. It think that oneís gonna be a winner!

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