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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Has reality TV finally reached rockbottom with ‘Reality Hell’?

Just when I think reality TV cannot possibly get any worse — like I did just a few months ago with Fox’s arranged-marriage reality show — I am proven wrong. Variety reports:

E! will deconstruct the reality genre with its new nonscripted offering “Reality Hell,” airing Sundays starting Aug. 16.

The half-hour, which received an eight-episode order, will feature a cast of several actors and one dupe each week who thinks he or she is appearing on a new, genuine reality program.

“So many people are drawn to reality shows for their small taste of fame,” E! director of original programming and series development Jason Sarlanis told Daily Variety, “and ironically, this show gives it to those willing participants who are just very much excited to be part of the reality process. I can tell you the joy they get from when they find out they’re on (‘Reality Hell’) has been very fun for us.”

Joy? People get joy out of being punked? People are happy to be made such obvious fools of? I don’t doubt that the producers are having fun — only a sadist could be involved in putting together something like this — but are we now so sadly desperate for our 15 seconds on TV that those the producers are hoodwinking enjoy it?

Oh, and there’s this, too:

The challenges on each episode of “Hell” are so extreme, if not ridiculous, that they test the pigeons’ passion for winning.

Did not one of the dupes call bullshit on what they were being asked do? Is there nothing so extreme that people will not do it in exchange for fame?

Has reality TV finally reached rockbottom with Reality Hell? Or can it still get worse?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Zed

    You’ve seen Dr.Who… so you’ve seen how it can get worse…

  • JSW
  • pausner

    Of course it can get worse; you’ve probably seen Videodrome

  • JoshDM

    Apparently you’re not watching The Colony on Discovery Channel.

    It’s like that reality show where they abandoned a bunch of kids in the old west, but with adults (who sometimes act like kids), some of whom are scientists or engineers, abandoned in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

  • Did not one of the dupes call bullshit on what they were being asked do? Is there nothing so extreme that people will not do it in exchange for fame?

    I think you’re missing something here… of course the ‘dupe’ didn’t call bullshit. Someone who is self-confident enough to realize what’s happening wouldn’t be interested in participating in this sort of thing to begin with. It’s kinda like the prank calls radio hosts make… there are people out there so desperate to be on the radio, they’ll endure any sort of nonsense just in the hope that somebody is actually interested in their book about surviving the 2012 apocalypse.

  • amanohyo

    Reality TV will reach rock bottom when a show is “created” that is composed entirely of fifteen second clips from random video blogs scavenged from the internet. Bloggers will watch, then vote and create video blogs about why they like or dislike certain bloggers. Clips from these new blogs will subsequently be used to make the next show, and so on in a neverending cycle of pointless sensationalism, armchair judgment, and schadenfreude. It’ll be like a slightly less shallow and irrelevant version of the broadcast news cycle.

    Possible titles:
    Fifteen Seconds of Fame!
    America Judges Everyone Else!
    Are You Smarter Than These Random Strangers?
    Would You Hit This?
    So You Think You Can Talk?

  • Chuck

    Do you want it to go away. Fine, stop watching and stop talking about it.

    It’s sort of like natural selection, only in this case it’s natural selection of who prospers in life. “Prospers” in this case having a very wide definition.

    -You could involve your self in the misery of someone else, or you could have a nice chat with you significant other, or friends.

    -You could get all wound up on whether Vinnie will be kicked off the island, or you could learn a new skill that help to keep you employed.

    -You could sit there and laugh at the fat people, or go for nice walk.

    -You could complain about the crap on TV or you could write a screenplay for an intelligent new show that will drag millions away from Reality Hell.

    If every one else is watching American Idol, Dacing with the stars, Reality Hell, and Football, the world will soon be mine! (insert evil laugh, fade to black)

  • AJP

    I don’t know, I think that More to Love is lower on the totem pole than this. Really, can you beat a show for awfulness when the pitch is “It’s like the Bachelor, but with fat girls!”

  • syg

    I’m not gonna lie – I kinda think it’s brilliant. What better way to punish those who willingly volunteer to be on a reality show than putting them through hell?

  • Jurgan

    So they get desperate people to come on TV and then trick them into making fools of themselves? How is that different from the much-loved Borat? That’s a serious question, by the way, and one I’ve been meaning to ask you (Maryann) for a while: If you disdain humiliation comedy so much, how did you love Borat? I’m sure there’s a difference, at least to you, but I can’t quite see what it is.

  • @jurgan: “So they get desperate people to come on TV and then trick them into making fools of themselves?”

    what makes them “desperate”? do they keep the family farm if they go through this? does their child get a much needed operation? does granma get her sight back? do they even get a career? get serious. a craving for undeserved and unearned fame — no matter how fleeting — is pathetic perhaps, but not really worthy of sympathy.

    the difference between this and Borat, is that the people in Borat were just themselves, both good and bad (not everyone was a fool, a tool, or a racist) and were not promised some sort of “reward” for their participation. the people in these so-called “reality” shows are craving attention. they deserve what they get.

    and additional note to Chuck: even if you don’t watch these show (and i have never seen one episode of any of these reality shows, and that includes Dancing with Anything, Idols of Idiocy or anything else) there is no way in the present cultural climate to avoid hearing about them. even the regular news programs make the winners of each round of Idol the *top news story* of each day. people around me at work discuss these programs endlessly. i used to think soap opera addicts had it bad! and broadcast television has now built their entire scheduling around these cheap, bread and circuses, shows. hard to not hear about them at all, even if you don’t participate in them.

  • How is this ironic show not appealing?

    We all hate reality television whores ( “whores” in the non-gender descriptive sense of the word ie “media whore”), but now we can see some of these reality tv lames who so desperately crave fame get punished for their pathetic need of attention.

    I think this is a great idea.

  • Jurgan

    @ Bronxbee: Wow, I must have been very unclear. I meant “desperate” in the sense of desperate for attention, not in the sense of having a serious need. So, no, I wasn’t making a plea for sympathy- sorry for the confusion.

    Otherwise, I don’t really understand your response. My point was that, in both Borat and in many of these shows, the pleasure people take in them is in watching unpleasant people get what they deserve. Now Maryann has often commented on her distaste for game shows, saying that they encourage people who are desperate for attention to humiliate themselves, and yet she praised Borat (and now Bruno) for the way Cohen puts people on camera and encourages them to humiliate themselves. I still don’t see the distinction.

  • “My point was that, in both Borat and in many of these shows, the pleasure people take in them is in watching unpleasant people get what they deserve.”

    however, the people who sign up for reality shows are *asking* for the humiliation; the people who were in Borat were just being themselves.

    i can’t speak for maryann’s opinions on the matter.

  • So it’s funny if someone gets humiliated who ISN’T asking to be humiliated, and it’s deplorable if someone IS asking for it? Odd logic, that.

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