15 minutes of shame

It used to be 15 minutes of fame. Now it is 15 minutes of shame… and then 15 minutes after that you’re forgotten.

Can you name four castaways from Survivor: Gabon (season 17)? How about three housemates from Big Brother: ‘Til Death Do You Part (season 9)? How about any two eliminated contestants from the first 10 seasons of The Biggest Loser?

Didn’t think so.

But do you know the first American Idol winner? How about the first Survivor winner?

My point is that with so many reality shows, anybody appearing on them isn’t unique anymore. It is for that reason we are seeing fist fights and objects hurled in an attempt to be memorable. Outrageousness is key.

I chatted with Jerry Springer recently. He works two days per week, tapes six shows and flies off to do other things the rest of the time. His talk show is notorious for being a UFC platform. In fact, he told me that unless your story is bizarre you wouldn’t be allowed on his show. But do you remember the chair-throwing trash for any length of time after it appears on TV? No, it gets filed away in the giant discard pile in your brain.

Which brings me back to American Idol: It was once the powerhouse on TV, but it hit series-low ratings last week. There was some interest last year after Simon Cowell left and the shake-up at the judging table had people curious. Even Cowell’s new show The X Factor did poorly and had to change things up. (FOX continually sends press releases to generate hype and keep people buzzing about the show so it isn’t forgotten.)

Last week America’s Next Top Model turfed the expert panel. Not that the gang was doing anything wrong but, you know, time for something new. The challenge is winning back the fans lost with such a change. Obviously Idol is feeling that pain — or is it that after a decade of singing competitions are people just sick of manufactured TV where the sad contestant stories tug at your heartstrings and you feel compassion?

Or, is it that in today’s open world the secrets of TV production are exposed and people now realize “reality” has a totally different meaning when it comes to TV?

Take for instance the death of Whitney Houston or the non-entertainment story where teenager Trayvon Martin was killed. TV plays a huge role and these are two recent stories where the facts should be front and centre but editing modified what happened for the sake of sensationalism.

Seeing is believing — when no cameras or production crew are involved and you have to pause the show to read the fine print at the end where there is a disclaimer about editing. (Look closely next time, you’ll see the admission about editing.)

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