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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Race to Nowhere: When Reality Blurs

Recently, the nation took a moment away from the failing economy (Dow Jones at 10,000+ isn’t impressive under the current climate) and the rifle toting citizens with anti-Obama posters at Town Hall meetings for Healthcare, to look up. And what we’ve found was an aluminum flying saucer speeding across the Colorado skies, supposedly holding a 6 year old child in it.

Parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, looked on as their invention took on national attention after it was relayed to the authorities that their son, Falcon, may have climbed into the silver monstrosity to hide from his siblings. The family even took video of the lift off, in what many are now calling an Oscar winning performance when the father “suddenly” realized that Falcon, of all people to be floating in the air, was missing.

CNN and a long list of national stations covered the flight LIVE. People expressed their hopes and fears using social communities like Twitter and Facebook. The Heene Family had all eyes on them; apparently what they wanted.

Well the balloon landed in a field and presto, no child. The nation was relieved. Falcon was hiding in a cardboard box in the attic the entire time. He said on air that he heard his family calling for him, yet stayed where he was until (you’ve guessed it) the balloon landed.

Currently, the Heene Family is under investigation for allegedly staging the entire event, all thanks to Larry King and his efficient questioning of the family. During the show, Falcon said of his parents, “You guys said we did this for the show.” Of course they did…

The Heene Family was previously on the reality show “Wife Swap”. This was a sign in itself. What I believe that people fail to realize about reality shows is that if you aren’t coming into the opportunity with star power, your 15 minutes of fame can fizzle out immediately. You can’t go from being on national or cable television for 3 to 6 months, to working for Wal-Mart, for example. And pride has nothing to do with it.

When the season is over, your local community that recognizes you from the show will start out as admirers. They’ll want photographs and autographs. They’ll even want to introduce you to their friends and family. But after seeing you a few times, that admiration will turn into negative backwash. People will ask why you’re not a star by now. They’ll talk down on you and make you feel worse off than before you got on the show. And at that moment, you’ll do anything to get back on television… ANYTHING.

I have personally been weary of every reality show in existence. The odds of a non-talented cast member rising from relative obscurity to superstardom are slim to none. While talented cast members are forever linked to the show, living in the shadow of its high ratings. American Idol’s first winner, Kelly Clarkson has done every she possibly could to separate herself from the Idol brand. Yet, what she should do is hope that it doesn’t go off the air while she continues to bank on her “Idol” success. For if the ship goes down, her connection to it could suffer by association.

Yes, I am about to say it: If a Reality Show comes knocking, treat it the way Illegal Immigrants will treat Census workers when they come knocking… hide in the closet.

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