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07/17/2001 - "CANNIBAL" AND OTHER GREAT REALITY SHOWS
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"CANNIBAL" AND OTHER GREAT REALITY SHOWS

My Fellow Writers,

With the nuttiness over at BIG BROTHER 2, reality television was again front-page news.

First off, let me say that I loved SURVIVOR - resisted it as long as I could, but then got hooked and watched every episode I could. I thought both seasons were compelling in the extreme. Moments of sheer heroism came out of those extraordinary situations. I was gripped.

But reality television needs to pay close attention as it evolves. The rules haven't been set yet, and there are plenty of red flags popping up on various shows that either cross the line, or tread very close to it.

For those of you who missed it, NBC's SPY TV had a great segment about two weeks ago. First off, a disclaimer - I think SPY TV is extremely mean-spirited and often crosses the line. On the other hand, everyone who appears on that show signs a release - some are paid small fees (as low as $100). The only thing I wish they'd add on SPY TV is the price they paid for the person's release, so we'd all know how much that person's dignity costs.

In any case, despite my distaste for the show in general (which I watch at least half the time, but I'm not a Nielsen family, so I don't affect any ratings), they did an absolutely brilliant segment two weeks ago. They put an ad in the paper asking for potential contestants for a reality television show. When the greedy, fame-hungry group showed up, the SPY TV people put them through physical and mental tests - just to make it look like a genuine audition process.

Next, SPY TV made the people eat mealworms, then some other kind of bugs or something. Then came the real test. The SPY TV crew revealed that the name of the new reality show would be "CANNIBALS," meaning that the contestants would have to eat human flesh. They brought out what they said was cooked human flesh (it was actually pork), and told the contestants that they could only be on the show if they ate it.

As we all know, next to incest, eating human flesh is probably one of the most universal taboos. So out of five people, how many people do you think were overcome by greed enough to make them eat human flesh? Answer: FOUR. That's right, four people ate what they thought was human flesh. This leads me to believe that the "People Eaters" probably thought that there were at least two taboos that were worse than cannibalism -- poverty and being a non-celebrity.

The only hope for humanity resides in the fact that one woman - I wanted to kiss her - resisted, even with the peer pressure of the others and the SPY TV crew telling her to do it. She wouldn't.

Of course, the joke was revealed and everyone had a good laugh - perhaps not grasping the weight of the fact that they would have actually EATEN PEOPLE in order to gain money or fame or whatever it is they were out to get. And to top it off, they didn't have qualms with letting the whole world know that they did this . . . for a few hundred bucks!

Now, I know that the psychology of the situation (i.e., by starting off small and slowly increasing the stakes, they got people to do things they wouldn't normally do) made this a unique situation. However, two things come to mind: (1) I like to think that there's no way in hell that I would have been convinced to eat human flesh - short of a threat on my life or something of that nature. And (2) If I was brain-damaged or desperate enough to eat what I thought was human meat, I certainly would try to keep it a secret once I learned that I was just duped and made to look, well, like a greedy, amoral simpleton.

They always say there's no bad publicity in Hollywood, but can that really be true in this case? I mean, boy, what a great thing to be famous for - these people will do ANYTHING for money. Wow, I hope they put that on their resumes.

That's all for now. I've made myself hungry.

Tastes like chicken,

Grady

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