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Commentary: 15 minutes for everyone?

Paul Iiams
By Paul Iiams
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 27, 2003

Andy Warhol once spoke of everyone having 15 minutes of fame. Little did he know, his prediction would come true in the first few years of the 21st century. Today anyone, anywhere, can become "famous," or, as normal people like to call them, "idiots."

What is causing this sudden influx of celebrity? While it seems benign, the people choose to be involved and it is an entity far more sinister, far more dangerous than you could ever imagine.

What kills me about this is the fact that, while I profess my hatred of these shows at every available opportunity, deep down I realize that I am living the same lie that millions of other Americans are living.

I am addicted to reality television.

It's everywhere. The phenomenon started on cable television with such shows as "The Real World." It has since mutated into a disease that has infected nearly every network, whether it is cable or one of the six majors.

If that wasn't bad enough, we now have so many different formats of "reality" TV that you can be a star in almost any way you want.

Are you single and looking for "love"? Check. The buzz around mind-numbing shows like "Joe Millionaire" and "The Bachelorette" is ridiculous. Yet, every week millions of people watch to see if Evan will still be the dumbest man in America (he is) and if Trista will give a rose to the psycho Russ (she didn't).

Are these shows too high-brow for you? You can always become part of soft-core porn dating shows like "Blind Date" or "The Fifth Wheel." Anytime a show can release a "too hot for TV" version of their show, it's highly likely that your IQ will drop when you are watching it.

Do you want your house refurbished? Check. One of the most popular shows in the world right now is "Trading Spaces." It has spawned at least three knockoffs, two of which play on MTV and VH1. Does anyone else remember when MTV and VH1 played music? Me neither.

Apparently these shows by themselves have become boring to some. So what do they do? That's right, kids, combine them. Thankfully, the title of the show has left my memory, but the premise hasn't. Two people get together and redo a room in each other's houses! If that is isn't love, then · well, that isn't really love, is it?

Hey, after you find your true love on one of these dating shows, the reality fun doesn't have to stop. Once your bimbo or himbo tires of your constant reminders of the time you were on that show (which should be about a week), they inevitably will go out to find someone else to hook up with. You can then be a part of "Cheaters." The show will stalk your partner and then confront them with ÷ look out ÷ cameras! It doesn't get any more surreal than that.

I guess I spoke too soon. Now actual celebrities are getting involved in the reality business. The term "celebrity" is used very loosely when it comes to these shows. I read that Mark Burnett (you know, the crazy "Survivor" creator) wanted to do an all-star version of his hit show. He has put it on the backburner because he only wants top-flight celebs. You would think that other creators of reality shows would follow Burnett's lead (they have copied him in nearly every other way), but no.

Are there two more disappointing people than Stephen Baldwin and Vince Neil? Baldwin, whose career has been steadily declining since, um, "Biodome," decided to make an ass of himself on the originally titled "Celebrity Mole." Come on Steve, be like your brother Alec and make an ass of yourself on a higher-quality show like "Hollywood Squares."

As for you, Vince, your betrayal hurts the worst. You were once the man that made a home movie with not one, but two girls. You one-upped Tommy Lee! Now, you make a TV show with Corey Feldman and Webster? You can't even one-up Tommy Smothers! But I guess any press is good press for a celebrity.

What can we, the intelligent viewers do? In a word: nothing. Eventually, the reality genre, like the game show boom of a couple of years ago, will expand beyond its limits and die. But that might not happen soon enough.

So, as the old saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I've decided to pitch my own reality show to the networks. It's called "I was Tough Enough for the Real World after Surviving a Blind Date with a Bachelorette while visiting my Big Brother at his High School Reunion on Temptation Island."

Pure ratings gold.

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