Ignoring CBS' Big Brother for Real Reality TV; NBC Pulls a Jolie On the Press
Focused on 14 people crammed into a makeshift house for months with an army of cameras trained on their every move, this European import's first season served mostly as a document of how social isolation and continual observation can break down a person mentally. Subsequent editions just seemed like turgid showcases for the kind of talentless narcissists who often crowd the ranks of reality TV contestants.
And yet, tonight at 8 p.m., we will welcome an 8th summer of Brother, with editions airing on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; premium cable channel Showtime offers a three-hour live and presumably uncensored look at life in the house from midnight to 3 a.m. nightly.
In a way, Big Brother almost seemed like a subtle finger in the eye to summertime viewers. "If you're dumb enough to be parked in front of a TV set in the summer," CBS seemed to say, "then we'll give you a TV show about people sitting around the living room of a house they cannot leave." The similarities between the observers and the observed seem absurdly ironic.
Even the show's host, wooden CBS newsreader Julie Chen, admits her stilted delivery lives down to the derisive fan nickname for her ("The Chenbot"), while also admitting some former friends at the Tiffany Network roll their eyes at her because she's also married to the president of the company.
I know there are rabid fans out there for this show, who insist critics like me expect too much from reality TV. Still, I implore you, if you're dead set on consuming reality TV this summer, consider these way cooler -- and mentally healthier -- alternatives to the reverse social Darwinism at hand on shows such as Brother and America's Got Talent.
Man Vs. Wild -- Hosted by a guy with the coolest backstory in TV -- former British military special forces member Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls, who became the youngest Brit ever to survive a climb up Mount Everest (four team members died) -- its an exploration of how to survive extreme conditions with a minimum of supplies, featuring Grylls doing everything from soaking a shirt in urine to beat desert dehydration to eating a live snake in a jungle forest.
Deadliest Catch -- One of my fave docu-reality shows, this series features the rugged, death defying guys who fish for crab in the Bering Sea near Alaska. the series itself just finished airing new episodes, but Discovery Channel is still airing compelling behind-the-scenes programs showing how filmmakers captured their exhausting, dangerous work.
Dirty Jobs -- I've fessed up before on my thoughts about how show host Mike Rowe is God. But this series featuring the glibly irreverent Rowe tackling some of the grimiest, stinkiest, dirtiest gigs needed to keep our modern world going (past gigs include working on a compost farm and breeding mosquitoes), is some of the best television I have ever seen.
NBC Moves Into Jolie-land, Requiring Reporters to Sign Pre-Interview Agreement
Angelina Jolie isn't the only celebrity trying to control reporters seeking to interview her. Now, Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has prevailed upon NBC to require reporters participating in a Monday conference call to sign an agreement first.
NBC is barring foreign and tabloid press from the conference call, requiring all reporters to swear the interview will only be used to publicize her July 16 reality special -- shortened from a planned series, I'm guessing, once NBC suits realized there are very few Americans who give a crap about Posh Spice or her soccer star husband David Beckham. This is the first time I have ever seen a network ask reporters to sign such an agreement to participate in a conference call.
The ugly truth of these conference calls, at least for me, is that they often allow a chance to ask popular celebrities about things OTHER than the latest thing they are shilling, for a story which may have little to do with "publicizing" anything they do (indeed, I was one of two reporters who pressed Today show host Matt Lauer about how he and NBC got exclusive interviews with Prices Harry and William).
Since the Times doesn't agree to such pre-publication contracts, and I couldn't care less about Beckham's special, I won't be on the call. I imagine many other reputable news outlets will also refuse to be party to such an outrage. Those that do participate in this unfortunate requirement will be telling you, the reader, a little something about their independence and credibility.
I hope you take heed. Here's the agreement:
I, ____________________________with ____________________________
hereby certify that my interview with Victoria Beckham on _______________ will be
Published/broadcast for the sole purpose of publicizing “Victoria Beckham: Coming to America”
for said outlet just prior to but no later than Monday July 16, 2007. Resale of the contents
of my interview with Mrs. Beckham is prohibited without approval from Mrs. Beckham
and/or her representatives.