Reality TV takes advantage of people

This past Monday, Fox’s new reality TV series Joe Millionaire premiered with mind-blowing ratings. The 18.61 million viewers that tuned in made for the highest-rated premiere of any show –reality or otherwise — this season.

Earlier this week, the Center for Rural Strategies purchased ads in three major newspapers blasting a CBS reality show currently in production. The show will take a poor family from rural Appalachia, in a process that has been referred to as a “hick hunt,” and place them in a Beverly Hills mansion to see how they react to having money, servants and other posh luxuries. CBS, in a clever and original move, is calling the show The Real Beverly Hillbillies.

These two programs represent a significant change in the format of “reality” TV. Previous shows such as Survivor, The Mole and The Bachelor were simply harmless entertainment or glorified game shows. Millionaire and Hillbillies are demeaning and deliberately deceitful.

Telling a group of 20 women that a man they’re trying to win over is worth $50 million when he only makes $19,000 a year is like a man on a date telling a woman he’s a doctor when he really pumps out Port-a-Johns. Sure, it’s easy to make fun of these women as gold diggers, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting a wealthy man.

The Real Beverly Hillbillies is nothing short of an outrage. Taking advantage of a poverty-stricken family for no other reason than to laugh at their “fish-out-of-water” situation is wrong, and CBS should know better

When The Truman Show was released in the summer of 1998, people looked at it as a satire about the loss of privacy experienced by Americans. No rational person ever expected to see a world where a network would take advantage of an oblivious person.

TV executives need to do one of two things: Either bring back the game show format of reality shows, or actually make the effort to hire good writers and come up with an original concept for a series. Jed, Granny, Jethro and Elly May don’t deserve to have their legacy tainted.

University Wire — Ohio State U.