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You know what? I don’t use my lofty position as a reviewer of online video to make moral judgments very often. Usually I just complain about sound design. But I think I’m going to get on my high horse today as I write about Crackle’s new reality series Who Wants to Be On A Reality Show?
The premise is simple, and it’s explained at the beginning of each of the 10 episodes that premiered today: A casting call for reality contestants was put out, and the most desperate were brought in to audition for ridiculous fake reality shows like Zit Art, What’s In My Pants? and Chemo for Dollars (seriously, Chemo for Dollars). Each episode focuses on one potential contestant humiliating themselves for the opportunity to be on the show, sometimes (as in the case of The Pain Game) to the point of physically abusing themselves. (Embedding has been disabled for all episodes, which I’d complain about if I found this show less gross.)
Sure, there’s no denying that reality TV has, rather than dying out as a genre, become an ingrained part of pop culture over the last decade. And that’s created a large population of people a touch too desperate to see their faces on television, and thus easily taken advantage of.
That doesn’t mean anyone should. You know?
I suppose that there’s a level of cleverness to the writing, with attempts at sophisticated humor including Holocaust references and cancer jokes. And the initial interviews with the “contestants” do generally have some interesting character moments — a beat like The Pain Game‘s realization that “Chad, you’re in therapy, aren’t you?” isn’t as skincrawling as the rest of the show.
But my skin did still crawl, watching someone shove a dirty diaper in a man’s face or make a woman perform fellatio on a sausage. The intention of Who Wants to Be On a Reality Show seems in part to attack the culture of fame-whoring that’s made this show possible, but the social critique isn’t there at all. The genre isn’t satire, but reality comedy — and a particularly sociopathic sort at that.
The twist to this show is that at the end, hosts Dave Sheridan and Scott Satin reveal to the person we’ve just watched abuse themselves for five minutes that they actually have achieved their dreams, and are on a reality show at that very moment. (The twist of the knife being that it’s for the Internet, not for television.) The contestants themselves seem genuinely thrilled by this reveal, which, I suppose, means that each episode has a happy ending. Except, of course, for the audience. And maybe society.
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