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Reality TV Column: The Rise of the Has-been

Posted on June 23, 2005 by

I guess it was bound to happen eventually.

With the cyclical nature of reality television exhausting played-out themes like stupid pretty girl with smart ugly guy (a la “Average Joe”, “Beauty and the Geek”), the cringe-worthy (“The Swan”, “Extreme Makeover”, “Fear Factor”), physically demanding competition (“Survivor”, “The Amazing Race”), the fish out of water (“The Simple Life”, “Trading Spouses”) and many, many more, I guess it was only natural that this would follow.

The “this” I speak of is the so-called rise of the has-been, the washed-up, the C-list celebrities trying ever-so-hard to maintain their long-ago-faded 15 minutes of fame. Please, just let it go already.

This new trend has ushered in shows like NBC’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time” where bands and “singers”?? most of which many young people have never heard of?? try to revive their careers by belting out that one song that made them “stars” all those years ago. Ah yes, nothing like Haddaway singing “What is Love?” to make for great television.

But “Hit Me Baby One More Time” is not alone. ABC is making a killing in the ratings department with “Dancing with the Stars,” arguably the greatest “hit” of the summer (and quite possibly the dumbest idea for a show since Fox’s much-hated “Who’s Your Daddy?”), averaging around 16 million viewers last week.

I really can’t decide which is worse: the idea that “celebs” dancing the Tango, Waltz and Salsa makes for great TV, or that champion boxer Evander Holyfield, former supermodel Rachel Hunter, grown-up New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre, Trista of Bachelorette fame, Kelly Monaco from General Hospital, and of course John O’Hurley (J. Peterman from Seinfeld) are actually considered stars!

This show is baffling, but I’m sure the maniacal network execs, writers and producers who pitched it are grinning at their (startling) success as they toss handfuls of cash into the air. Sigh.

Last but not least, there is the lesser-known (and often underappreciated) “The Surreal Life”, on VH1 and MuchMoreMusic, where more washed-up personalities are brought together and forced to live in a tricked-out house, reminiscent of MTV’s the “Real World”.

Though not a performance show, of the three I mentioned, this is the only one I can watch for more than 10 minutes without feeling the urge to bang my head repeatedly against the wall. Though last season featuring porn king Ron Jeremy was hard to top, this season (number four) was not as bas as was expected.

This mismatched cast featured rapper Da Brat, Verne Troyer (“Mini-Me” from Austin Powers), Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos, Christopher Knight from the Brady Bunch, the first America’s Next Top Model winner, Adrienne Curry, former wrestler Chyna (Joanie Laurer), and my personal favourite, underwear model and obligatory eye-candy, Marcus Schenkenberg.

Though the season has sadly ended, a drunk and naked Mini-Me relieving himself in a corner, Chyna performing “procedures” on basketballs at 4:00 a.m., and a shirtless and mumbling Marcus made this show worth watching.

I’ll take that over a clumsy two-step any day.

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