With just 11 days remaining in 2007, the time has come yet again to look backwards and assess this period of time, and to follow the rest of the media and produce a couple easy stories that allow me to take a few days off. Actually, compiling this year’s list of reality whores was rather difficult, as there were many contenders.
reality blurred will return Wednesday, and next week I’ll look back at the trends in reality television this past year, and reveal the most-popular stories. But here are the people who I think became true reality whores, metaphorically or literally selling themselves for fame or fortune during 2007:
- Lauren Conrad and the cast of The Hills. Critics have long suspected that Laguna Beach and its now more-popular spin-off The Hills were fake. Part of that was because the shows broke new ground, with production design and editing that made the series feel like a drama. But as was revealed this year, The Hills may not be scripted, but it’s not real, either. Among other things, an actor was cast to date Lauren, Heidi and Spencer played make-believe at LAX, and Lauren admitted recreating scenes from her life. If your life consists of reenacting scenes from your life, what kind of life is that, really? Lauren has insisted that the show is real by saying “this really is my life,” and on some level, she’s right. Instead of just living and letting cameras capture that life, she’s living for the cameras, trading authenticity for fame, and becoming a true reality whore in the process.
- Flavor Flav, New York, and VH1’s serial celebrity daters. With its wildly popular Flavor of Love, VH1 gave us a watchable, entertaining series–and a much-needed takedown of The Bachelor and its false promise of true love. The problem is, instead of continuing to mock The Bachelor, a bunch of has-been or little-known stars–Flavor Flav, Tiffany “New York” Pollard, Bret Michaels, Tila Tequila (whose show was a VH1 show that was pushed to MTV)–have embraced, or pretend to embrace, the concept that the best way to find love is to search through a pile of TV-friendly, drama-creating famewhores. It’s one thing to use reality television to bring back your career, another to use it to extend your 15 minutes, but it’s just pathetic to insist that you want love and then return season after season to literally sell yourself.
- Kathy Griffin. She turned her life into a well-deserved Emmy this year, and then gave an awesome acceptance speech she admitted was designed entirely to get media attention. It worked, as did her other stunts. The incredible part is that she draws attention and increases her fame while staying grounded and relatable. Kathy Griffin has unquestionably perfected the art of whoring herself without making it look unseemly. Most of that is because, as she continued to do during the third season of My Life on the D-List, she just admits what she’s doing, and that changes everything. In that same tradition, I admit that this mention is just a shameless attempt on my part to get her to mention reality blurred and this honor on her show and/or in her act. Hopefully, I’ve learned well.
- Survivor Fiji star Dreamz. He promised Yau-Man immunity in exchange for a car, and then changed his mind. I suppose one’s integrity is a small price to pay for a 2008 Ford F-Series Super Duty truck.
- The producers of The Real World. TV’s groundbreaking, genre-defining series tragically jumped the shark long ago. And either the producers seem to refuse to admit that or just don’t know, and instead will do anything to resurrect the buzz that used to surround their now-crap-ass show. Last year, they used domestic violence used as a cliffhanger, glossed over and excused alcoholism and racism and violence, and pointlessly reunited the cast that ushered in the depravity, the group from The Real World Las Vegas. Now, they’ve abandoned the idea of selecting 20-somethings who represent most MTV viewers’ lives and instead “cast members with career and life goals,” which turned out to be a euphemism for media whores. Perhaps they should have just cast themselves.
- The producers of American Idol. American Idol may be the most popular show in the country, but you’d think that declining ratings would lead them to show some respect for their own show and its audience. But no; instead, they’ll do anything and everything to promote the franchise. There are endless examples, of course, but last season, a few stand out, starting with the way they shamelessly used a little crying girl by plucking her from the dress rehearsal audience and giving her a prims seat so America could see her tears. As if things such as refusing to let Sanjaya sing “Mercedes Benz” because the show is sponsored by Ford weren’t enough, they pushed the season finale into overtime to prevent people from changing channels, disingenuously apologizing for causing DVR users to miss the actual results. Perhaps the worst example was the Idol Gives Back telethon. While it ultimately did good work (never mind the fact that the show donated just $5 million of its $2.5 billion), it was an example of how the series will use anything to promote itself. Before the fundraising event began, executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz said that “some people don’t want to spend two hours watching poverty and people suffering,” yet suffering is exactly what they gave us, shamelessly and cruelly exploiting their finalists to infuse the telethon with some drama. As long as they get their shot, they don’t care who gets in the way.
- People who overreact to reality show concepts before actually seeing a single episode in order to promote themselves or their own interests. Armed with only a description, a disturbing but ultimately standard contract, and reports that, the horror, kids were injured (surely the first time in human history that kids were accidentally hurt), members of the media and others sunk their teeth into Kid Nation. The show was even described as a reality TV “Lord of the Flies”, which ends, of course, in disaster. But once the series actually debuted, the critics fled, because it quickly became clear that the kids’ lives were carefully controlled, never mind the obvious fact that they were constantly surrounded by crew members. If you’re going to speak or report dogmatically about something you’ve never seen to make political points or draw ratings, at least stick around to actually see if you were right.