the top six reality TV whores of 2004
A subset of media whores, an ever-expanding class of people who sell themselves to the media for self-serving, attention-grabbing reasons, reality TV whores use their ephemeral fame for both good and evil. Most are delusional, assuming that an appearance on a reality TV show entitles them to keep their faces in our faces for all of eternity. But all we want as viewers is to move on to the next cast. We’re sluts like that. This past year, just like in 2003, some reality TV whores stood out more than others, and so reality blurred is recognizing them for their achievements in reality TV whoredom. It’s a competitive field, but the six people (and groups) on this list rose above and deserve special recognition.
- Jenna Lewis, Survivor All Stars. First she appeared on Survivor All Stars. Fine. Then she got married to A&F model Travis Wolfe a week before the series ended. Cool. Then the sex tape they made on their honeymoon was stolen. Sucks. Then she issued a press release to announce how “embarrassed” she was and to say that she’d soon grant an exclusive interview to talk about it. Um, okay. The release also gave the URL where the video could be purchased. Wow. And just last week, we learned—as we suspected—that it was her all along, and she’s made more than $100,000 from sales of the tape. Holy crap, what reality TV whore chutzpah. Standing on a street corner with a florescent parasol, ripped pantyhose, and smeared lipstick would have been less obvious.
- Real World/Road Rules Challenge casts. The first few Challenge shows were interesting, as we saw competition between friends, foes, and strangers all united by a common experience. But then it just got absurd. The current season is the ninth Challenge season; Seinfeld also aired for nine seasons. It’s hard to blame the casts for coming back season after season for the cash and prizes, but the problem is that they think of this as their career; Coral Smith called it a “fun job.” Sadly, it’s true; in addition to showing up again and again on MTV, cast members can earn close to $100,000 a year on the lecture circuit. And this is the problem: Instead of returning to their lives, they’re getting trapped in their show personas and continuing to subject us to themselves, although we play right along. Someone needs to step up, set an example, and move the hell on. Eric Nies, we’re looking at you.
- Clay Aiken fans. First, spare me your outraged, grammatically incorrect, bile-filled e.mail, Claymates. I like Clay Aiken, and have nothing against him. He lost American Idol 2 a year and a half ago, yet he’s more successful than the guy who won, breaking records this year, more than a year after he lost. You have to respect that. And clearly, he’s a talented performer who inspires people. That’s terrific. But the passion he’s inspired in his fans is both awesome and shocking. In particular, the irrational blindness with which some of them react to Clay-related news is scary. For example, responding to the recent Gawker item about Clay’s allegedly bad behavior, one fan posted to a message board, “Does anyone think this really happened? I don’t believe it. I don’t think for a second that clay would ever be mean to children. He’s the only compassionate person in hollywood. He’s like The Savior.” That’s so ridiculous it’s hardly believable. In fairness, others dismissed the “savior” comment, but another poster demonstrated an equivalent inability to accept even the possibility of a problem: “Anyone who follows Clay or has read his book knows better than to give much weight to this tabloid style gossip.” In other words, let’s kill the messenger and categorically deny the message for no real reason at all. Even if the item was completely factually inaccurate, such insane devotion makes some of his fans true fanatics. Enjoy Clay’s music, buy his records, go to his concerts, like him, respect him, and look up to him. But don’t get all huffy every time something happens that doesn’t match your image of him, and don’t pretend that you know him.
- Donald Trump, The Apprentice. The guy transformed reality TV, breathing fresh life into the genre at the beginning of the year and spawning copycats. More importantly, he transformed himself using reality TV, making himself even more larger-than-life than he was before. No other reality show on television is more about its host and star than The Apprentice; in addition to selling placed products, it sells Trump himself. He’s unquestionably the best, most impressive reality TV whore in the whole universe.
- Ryan Seacrest, American Idol. Seacrest came out of the first Idol without a lot of job security, since he and Brian Dunkleman pretty much bombed as a team. But producers hired him back and he’s now a cornerstone of the series–however grating and annoying he might be, especially with those damn “after the break” announcements. This year, he decided to really use Idol as a springboard. Already an afternoon talk show host, he dumped that for a morning show. Then he started a new radio gig after bumping an American institution, Casey Kasem, from American Top 40 (although we are grateful that we’ll never have to hear another sappy “request and dedication” again). Then, he went live for a one-hour afternoon show every day. When he had time to sleep between these four simultaneous gigs is unknown. Clearly, he realized that this wave he’s riding will slam him into the shore sooner or later, and he’s doing his best to whore himself while he still can.
- Journalists who wrote “reality TV is dead” stories. Considering these types of stories have been being written since the summer of 2000, one would imagine that journalists would stop embarrassing themselves by proclaiming that an entire genre of television is going to soon cease to exist. But no, the stories keep coming, every time there’s so much as a blip in the ratings. Certainly, we’ll see changes in the reality TV landscape, and there have definitely been swells inside this reality TV wave. But, really, the only reason they’re writing this crap is to get attention. These hack writers and alleged journalists are using reality TV, smacking it around because they like it that way. Worse, they pretend to be all moral about it, high and mighty and better than those of you curled up on your couches watching The Amazing Race, Big Brother, or Manhunt. Well, the jig is up. Journalists: Be critical, be analytical, hate the genre, whatever. But stop issuing death warrants just to compensate for a lack of (column) inches.