Reality shows

By on January 29, 2004

A new year often represents a new beginning. It can be a chance to forget about the trends of the previous year, providing for a fresh outlook for the coming year. The main television networks have seemed to disregard this notion while planning their winter lineup.

Instead of new scripted shows, major cable networks such as CBS and FOX are bringing back new seasons of older reality shows. With many of the previously successful shows premiering this month, the latest crop of reality programming is quick to demonstrate that 2004 is unlikely to be the year of originality.

The FOX network is ignoring the flaws of the last season’s hit “American Idol,” and premiered its third season Jan. 19. This time around they are hoping that the runner-up doesn’t gain more success than the winner of the show, as was the case with winner Ruben Studdard and second place finisher Clay Aiken. Aiken’s first week record sales quickly surpassed those of Studdard, putting the winner on the backburner shortly following his win on the show.

Out of the thousands of desperate teens and twenty-something’s who audition for the series, only a handful of contestants come close to doing any justice to the songs selected. The others will be shown on television merely for the judges and the audience to mock, bringing in many viewers who simply watch to feel better about themselves.

Freshman business major Michael Pistone enjoys following the plight of the contestants in the early stages of the program. “The show makes me realize there is always a bigger loser out there,” he jokes.

Another network hoping to get it right the second time around is NBC, who enters the reality race with their offering of a reality dating series. On the last season of “Average Joe,” former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader Melana Scantlin chose the ‘hunk’ Jason Peoples instead of the ‘average Joe,’ millionaire Adam Mesh, sending out the message that looks do matter when it comes to relationships.

Average men need not loose sleep over this though because they are getting another chance to try and prove they too can get their share of gorgeous women. At least the NBC network recognized they crushed the egos of millions of average men and is risking the chance of doing it again, with the latest “Average Joe” season currently airing episodes filmed in Hawaii, this time featuring model Larissa Meek.

The WB network brings the term “lack of substance” to a higher level with its second season of “The Surreal Life.” Bringing together scandalous celebrities including adult film director Ron Jeremy, rapper Vanilla Ice and televangelist Tammy Faye Messner, the show aims to show viewers how the personalities interact with each other when forced to live in the same house together.

The first strenuous task they had to accomplish was to buy groceries together. Is not finding your favorite brand of hot dogs really a life crisis? Watching celebrities shop for food has only slightly more substance than following the events surrounding the recent Britney Spears marriage in Las Vegas.

“Newlyweds,” chronicling the married life of singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, is a favorite among the Quinnipiac student population. It returned to MTV Jan. 21 for a second season. Students tune in with anticipation to see what the next stupid comment the clueless Simpson will offer, remembering last season’s realization that, to Simpson’s disbelief, Chicken of the Sea brand tuna fish is not chicken.

Freshman Carly Nartowicz, a communications major and hardcore “Newlyweds” fan, is excited to see Simpson’s husband, Nick Lachey, formerly of the boy band 98 Degrees, featured on the show. “I’m looking forward to seeing Nick’s birthday party,” she said. Lachey recently released his debut solo CD and the show also follows his career as a solo performer.

With trivial plot situations and less than interesting themes to frame the newest reality shows, viewers may question when enough is enough. This may not be the year for novel ideas, but we can still have hope for next season.


About Michelle Faust