Bayou Eskimos, Knitting Wars: Why WNET’s fake reality shows are so infuriating

New York public broadcasting station WNET has begun a fundraising campaign that advertises for five fake reality TV shows on fake networks–“Bad Bad Bag Boys,” “Bayou Eskimos,” “The Dillionaire,” “Knitting Wars,” and “Married to a Mime.” The imagery for the fake shows and includes this tagline: “The fact you thought this was a real show says a lot about the state of TV. Support quality programming. Join us at thirteen.org.”

To summarize, instead of producing high-quality reality TV of their own, WNET and Thirteen have resorted to condescension. Nothing like living up to the stereotype of public television.

Hey, WNET: You produce TV, too. In fact, you produced the very first reality show, never mind recent shows such as Colonial House. But why have you become so pathetic that you can only resort to kinda lame parodies of reality shows to get attention for your programming that no one wants to watch, except that show that comes from a commercial UK station?

Forgive my exaggeration and anger, but PBS and its affiliates–especially ones like WNET that are capable of producing and funding high-quality programming–are blowing a huge opportunity to capture audiences who I think are desperate for authenticity in their entertainment. They’re just not getting it from cable networks, which have largely decided to spend less money and over-produce every show to get a predictable outcome.

To be fair, WNET’s ads are well-designed and cleverly written. EW has copies of the posters, because apparently WNET is savvy enough to know that EW is where press releases go. And while “The Dillionaire” and its star “Fred Pickles” is just dumb, “Bayou Eskimos” and “Knitting Wars” are kind of hilarious, and both could easily be a real shows. WNET smartly also created parody Twitter accounts that are very active, which is smart.

But why not put those resources into marketing an actual reality show? I mean, did that seriously occur to no one? Of course, it’s more expensive to produce a show than an ad campaign, but the payoff would be bigger, too.

And where the is the U.S. version of Manor House to take advantage of the Downton Abbey craze? Hell, call it The Real Downton Abbey–or just rebroadcast Manor House. How hard would that be?

Apparently, harder than mocking shows and networks that are actually drawing viewers.

The Quest ends its journey stronger than it began

Verlox from The Quest

A review of the finale of summer's best reality series, which wasn't always perfect but was thoroughly entertaining right down to the finish, which included phenomenal challenges and special effects. Will ABC give it a second season?

Plus: an interview with the actor who played Verlox and the ogre.


Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

Shark Tank

Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

Also: Before the show began, Shark Barbara Corcoran was cast and then replaced--but then she sent this amazing e-mail and won the job.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.