Has reality TV gone way too far?

May 29, 2007 at 6:34 am 2 comments

Japan treeWhoa! Have I lost the plot or has reality TV gone too far this time? Beware: rant ahead. I admit to a number of quirks: suspicion of CCTV cameras and any form of surveillance; intense dislike of people talking loudly into their mobile phones in public places so everyone suffers from hearing their dramas; and reality TV. In fact, the other day on my two hour train journey home: if I was into identity theft, I’d now be a 40 something-year-old woman called Rochelle, who was applying for a mortgage. Really, all her personal details, bank account numbers, address, date of birth and so on – she announced to the whole train carriage in a series of mobile phone calls. If I was on the shady side, I would have been scribbling down all the details in eager anticipation of masquerading as someone whose salary I even know (and it’s way more than mine!).

Back to reality TV: I’ve never really understood the appeal. Australia’s Next Top Model – a parade of very young stick insects being great role models (not) to young girls; Extreme Makeover – a mindless show that encourages people not to accept what they were born with. Why do that when you can put yourself through the pain and trauma of plastic surgery for that supermodel-style nose or Pamela Anderson sized chest? And then there’s The Biggest Loser showing once again that our society is intolerant of individuals who carry a bit more flesh than stick insects. And why isn’t there a show called The Biggest Gainer – it’s not only heavy people who suffer from health and discrimination issues. There are people who can’t for the life of them gain kilos.

And now we have…..The Big Donor Show. Before you get excited, this is not a reality show about entrepreneurs giving away money. No, this is a show about people competing for a woman’s kidneys, yes really. Dutch broadcaster, BNN, will air a show featuring a woman only identified as Lisa, 37 years. Sadly, Lisa is dying of cancer but her kidneys will not be affected. Lisa will select a recipient, who is suffering degenerative kidney disease, based on their history, profile and conversations with their families and friends. The winner will receive one of Lisa’s kidneys. Throughout the 80-minute show, viewers will be invited to send Lisa text messages to advise her. OMG! what the???

Despite a barrage of complaints calling the show unethical, the Dutch broadcaster will go ahead with the show “to highlight the difficulties of searching for kidney donors”. I’m sure a documentary interviewing doctors, donors and recipients would suffice to make the point. But BNN’s Chairman says that the reality show would increase by a third the participants’ chances of getting a new kidney (no idea what he’s basing this gem of wisdom on).

The Dutch are pioneers of reality TV but viewers have been turning away from such mindless drivel as:

  • Spuiten en Slikken (or Shooting and Swallowing) in which the presenters experiment with drugs and a range of sexual exploits.
  • Patty’s Fort – saw minor Dutch celebs led by former pop singer, Patty Brard, gather for a colonic irrigation session, with the scatological results shown to the audience (Gee, shame I missed that one!).

Fortunately, we were spared attempts in 2005 to launch a sperm donor show, in which a woman was to select a father for her baby in front of the cameras. Mass public outcry put a stop to this.

What can I say? Gutter TV. And shows the ongoing manifestation of our contemporary society’s lowest common-denominator intelligence; obsession with Hollywood; and attraction for the macabre (usually at the expense of another person’s pain and dignity).

POSTSCRIPT: June 2: seems this was all a hoax, but I’m still suspicious. Producers have now admitted the show was a hoax, designed to call attention to the plight of kidney disease sufferers. Lisa was revealed in the last minutes of the show as a healthy actress; the contestants, however, were genuine kidney patients. Dutch embassies received complaints from people expressing their shock over the show – no joke! The cynical amongst us might ask whether the TV station in question was suffering from declining ratings; the sane amongst us might suggest that drawing attention to kidney disease in this manner would actually do more harm than good. I still maintain that it shows the depths to which reality TV has plummeted.

Entry filed under: Rant, Reality TV.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stly  |  June 2, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    ”drawing attention to kidney disease in this manner would actually do more harm than good”

    This isnt true, 12000 people asked for a donor form, immediatly after the show.. and it has been in the media a lot, people are more aware of the situation now.

    And to be honost, i thought it was a good idea. I liked the show and im disappointed that it was just a hoax. But i trust BNN and they’ll come up with other great ideas.

    And btw. Spuiten en Slikken was a good show! I loved it! And im not the only one, too bad it isnt on anymore 😦

    (sorry for the bad grammar, but im a 14 year old dutch guy.. so my english isnt to well)

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  June 2, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Thx for your leaving your comment Stly and I reckon your English is very good! Look out for a post in the next few days called “Is Privacy a Generational Thing?”. Since you’re 14 yrs old, I’d be interested in your opinion.


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