Apr 19 2012

Five Reality TV Shows that Should Have Stuck Closer to Their Titles

Published by at 10:00 am under Editorials,Lists,Television

As a rule, I avoid all forms of reality TV. If a given show contains the word “teen,” “wives,” “love,” “pregnant,” “Kardashians,” “shore,” “real,” “celebrity,” “extreme,” or “life” in the title, it’s probably not for me. These programs are chock-full of the worst kinds of people, the “drama” is usually manufactured, and just a few moments of exposure fills me with a weird combination of fury and anxiety (furiety?). And here’s the worst part: if I met some Hollywood hotshot who offered me a spot in the next season of The Bachelorette or whatever, I’d hypocritically snatch it up in a heartbeat to put my own stupid face on TV for a few minutes. I hate myself for this.

I’ve been trying to share my furiety with you guys for months, believe it or not. But whenever I pitch reality TV–themed articles to Paul, the exchange usually goes something like this:

P: <sigh> So here we are again. Do I even have to say it, TJ?
TJ: Say what?
P: Nobody cares that Kim Kardashian’s wedding made you want to kill yourself. And even if someone did, they wouldn’t be interested in a list article describing how you could do it.
TJ: Are you serious? Didn’t you ever watch Faces of Death in high school? This article would drive tons of traffic to the site. This article would kill!
P: Faces of—what the hell are you talking about? Oh, and the only time you even mention the actual show is in the title—“36 Reasons Why the Kardashian Clan Makes Me Want to Kill Myself.” For the last time, I don’t get your vendetta against the Kardashians. It’s getting a little creepy, and this is basically just a 1,500-word suicide note.
TJ: 1,700.
P: Next pitch, dammit.

Anyway, after curbing my anti-enthusiasm, I finally figured out why I loathe reality TV shows so much: I’m not personally in charge of making them. Not one. Some promise the audience a quality premise, I’ll admit, but they fail miserably at the execution. Here are a few shows I’d probably watch if they followed the rule of KISS: keep it simple, stupid.

[Ed. note: Per our last meeting, TJ has been banned from using the words “Tila,” “Tequila,” “Flavor,” and “Flav” in this article. If he tries to squeeze those into the comments section somewhere, please report him, because that’s strike three.]

1)  Man vs. Beast


The original premise

“A series of sensationalistic television specials that involve a variety of challenges in which people and animals compete against each other.”

On paper, this might be the best TV show ever conceived. Pitting the best and brightest of our species against (presumably) deadly animals on national television? You’d be crazy not to tune in. Unfortunately, while my expectations went something like this…

…the show actually looks something like this:

httpv://youtu.be/HgqbCq_sxmo

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That’s a small Asian man engaged in a SERIOUS HOT DOG-EATING CHALLENGE AGAINST AN ADULT KODIAK GRIZZLY, and to the surprise of exactly zero viewers, the 700-lb carnivore won. Granted, its opponent—Takeru Kobayashi—is a renowned competitive eater, but on top of that being the stupidest career ever, it kind of makes the whole event that much more pathetic. Other feats of strength included a dude racing against a giraffe, 44 Gimlis competing against a goddamn elephant to pull a commercial jet X amount of feet, and a Navy SEAL squaring off against a monkey in an obstacle course. Jesus. H. Christ.

But with me in charge…

You’d get exactly what the title implies: no-holds-barred cage matches between ‘roided out athletes and deadly predators. An assortment of 15th century weapons would be available for the humans, and the winner gets to eat the loser. That’s a hunger game I can get behind, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m trying to bring Roman gladiators back into the mainstream.

2)  Survival of the Richest

The original premise

“[The show] pairs seven young rich people, worth a combined $3 billion, with seven poor young folks who carry a collective debt of $150,000. The group is forced to live together for six weeks and win competitions such as horse race betting and charity house building.”

I wish I was joking, but I felt my blood pressure rising about halfway through that paragraph. To be perfectly clear, the show’s producers found seven kids who had been spoon-fed every opportunity in life and paired them up with “poor” kids for a chance to win…wait for it…even more money. IMDb says the weekly challenges were “designed to show off the difference between the rich and the poor,” but do those of us burdened with student loans really need another reminder that $40,000 of debt is no big deal when your net worth is pushing $20 million? Because I already know how to walk into a Brooks Brothers and then out again.

But with me in charge…

Take seven trust fund babies and plunk them down in Spanish Harlem, where they’ll live for six weeks in a five-story walkup with four bedrooms, one bathroom, and dial-up internet. Their cell phones would be replaced with Nokia 1110s (circa 2005), and for spending money, they’d take turns working as a physician’s assistant at the local methadone clinic. Whoever doesn’t commit suicide by week six wins.

3)  Bad Sex


The original premise

“Explore the hidden world of sex disorders as sex specialist Chris Donaghue runs group therapy for individuals suffering with sexual compulsions, addictions & intimacy disorders.”

So sex addiction is really a thing, huh? Fine, I can buy into that. But one reason I watch TV is to escape from unsavory aspects of the real world, not sit in on probably the most uncomfortable group therapy sessions on earth. I’m not saying that these people don’t have very real psychological issues that require professional attention; I’m just plain not interested in the play-by-play of these issues getting sorted out. That stuff is kind of depressing to me.

But with me in charge…

During each episode, five professional comedians have a round-table discussion—Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn–style—about their craziest, most embarrassing sex stories. Standup comics have been doling out unique perspectives on sex and sexuality for decades, and most of them don’t have a problem with brutal honesty in that regard. You can bet I’d stick around to hear about your terrible sex life if it’s packaged in a relatable, punchline–driven narrative.





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10 responses so far

  • D.C.

    “And here’s the worst part: if I met some Hollywood hotshot who offered me a spot in the next season of The Bachelorette or whatever, I’d hypocritically snatch it up in a heartbeat to put my own stupid face on TV for a few minutes. I hate myself for this.”

    This may be the deepest, truest and most revealingly personal thing you’ve ever written on this site, Paul. It was also very LOL, because this is precisely how I feel. Kudos to you, sir, for being honest without fear.

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    @Dc

    TJ, not me. Kudos to him, haha.

  • http://facebook.com/tjfinkcomedy TJ Fink

    Thanks @D.C.!

  • Gil

    I also don’t watch shows with the same title words you mentioned. I feel like any day now The Learning Channel will become The Reality Channel since most of their programming has moved to that type of show. I will admit however that I am a fan of Sons of Guns on Discovery. The focus of the show is mostly on the guns they build/rebuild/design/and ultimately fire. It’s a good group of people that I think are fun to watch. Other than that show however I can’t stand reality programming. My vote for the man vs. beast and bad sex remakes. Those would probably make me crawl back.

  • Amy

    What, you don’t like Real Life Celebrity Extreme Teen Pregnant Wives Love Kardashian Shore?
    Okay I could have done better there… lol I don’t like reality TV at all. But don’t diss The Most Extreme just cuz it has “Extreme” in the title. That show is still cool.

  • Beth

    Your planned restructuring of ‘Pitbulls and Parolees’ does nothing more than feed into the negative stereotypes surrounding this much maligned breed.

    I’m not saying the original show is any good- I believe their adoption rate is something like 4 dogs per month, while they seize or take in over 100 dogs per year. However, I think it’s shady and irresponsible to glorify the breeds’ aggressive history.

    Mr Fink, as a faux Animal Planet TV executive, you can do better.
    Funnier, smarter, more socially responsible….

  • Lindsay

    Ignore your friend, I think this list is awesome :D Just one thing though- “-and for spending money, they’d take turns working as a physician’s assistant at the local methadone clinic.” As a physician assistant student, I’d like to point out that we are required to undergo 3 years of grad school, a comprehensive certification exam, and to obtain a medical license. We’re fully qualified medical professionals, not just some medical assistants that hand over the gauze to the physician. The teens would need to go to grad school first.

  • http://facebook.com/tjfinkcomedy TJ Fink

    @Lindsay
    Heyo! True, healthcare is a challenging career path; I once dated a nurse. But how many kids are in your classes with net worths pushing $5 million? Not many, is my [completely uninformed] guess. And to give you an idea of my writing process, the sentence you cite is specifically a product of the Google search, “what kind of jobs are at methadone clinics?”

  • http://www.JudeDestinComedy.com Jude Destin

    I just wrote this long ass comment about Men vs Beast and lost it because I didn’t include my mail. But basically I was thinking we should release a possum on the uptown A C E train.

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/TJ-Fink-Comedy/163435390404134 TJ Fink

    @Jude Destin
    Done and done!

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