No safety net? No Problem!: Reality TV to the rescue…

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Unemployed and living in your car? Forced to stay in Iraq for extra tours of duty? Panicked because you have no healthcare insurance? Sounds like a job for reality TV!

Last week, reviewers got an advance look at the upcoming season’s new reality programs, which feature everyday people facing common problems in the U.S. or its colonies.

Commercial tie-ins are woven subtly into many of the programs. The spokesperson for a consortium of the nation’s largest corporations explained, “As the former employers of over 2.3 million people, we know that job and pension losses can sometimes cause a little bit of ouch.’ We want to help.”

The new shows are modeled on “The A+ Student,” in which 10 students with perfect grades and impressive abilities are chosen from among hundreds of thousands of “financially challenged” students to compete for one college scholarship.

Some critics call the program a searing indictment of failed educational opportunity, but sponsor Mall-Wart doesn’t agree: “In the American dream, anyone can make it to the top. We’re rooting for that one. It’s the least we can do.”

Don’t Agonize, Accessorize takes a fresh approach to the widespread phenomenon of family living in the family car. Each episode, famous decorators will work with materials at hand and a $15 credit from Tarjay to create auto life at its finest. The families selected will also receive dinner at McDonald’s and a Good Housekeeping subscription.

The producers glowingly noted, “Martha Stewart’s recently acquired expertise in decorating small spaces combined with the talents of the Queer Eye’ stars will create car interiors that are both cozy and functional.”

“Before Stonewall, we must have done a thousand closets,” said the “Queer Eye” team. “A car is no problemo.”

In the first program, the Bensons parents with two children and a dog were thrilled at the make-over of their Buick. It featured a hanging dandelion basket suspended from the latch of their car’s open hood, and disposable curtains fashioned from dark blue Chevron station wipe-up towels. The trunk was outfitted to use as a room rental, and the cigarette lighter was repositioned as a hot plate.

Privately, producers were disappointed that the Bensons kept about talking about needing jobs. Said one, “It’s the same with all the families we interviewed; we’ll just do our best to ignore the whining and hope the viewers will, too.”

Beat the Press is filmed on location in Iraq. It features eight U.S. soldiers who, like thousands of others, were forced into unending tours of frontline duty by the military’s “stop loss” directive a policy revealed after the volunteers signed up. Divided into two squads, the soldiers contend for a chance to get out of the military by coming up with the most effective cover stories for ongoing mistakes by the administration.

Unknown to the contestants, early release applies only if the U.S. declares war on Switzerland. “The winners will get a real chuckle when they find out,” chuckled program adviser Colonel Ed “Nuke ’em” Wood. “Soldiers know there’s always catch in the military.”

Each squad uses a loaned computer and printer discreetly labeled with the Helliburton Company logo. The CEO explained, “Our standard price to the Army is $400,000 per workstation, but we want to help. It’s the least we can do.”

In the first show, each team drafted a press release to convincingly support Bush’s claim that despite complaints, the troops had been given everything they’d asked for.

The winning squad’s statement explained that when soldiers said they needed heavy metal protection, they’d been sent every recording ever made by Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’Roses, Def Lep Deep Purple, Van Halen, and Metallica.

Under the Weather is the most eagerly anticipated of the new reality programs because the winner gets three months of complete healthcare and pharmacy coverage. Contestants have been drawn from a promising pool of over 25 million Americans of all ages who lack health coverage of any kind.

In Part I, participants were challenged to deduce the cost per dose of U.S.-produced medications sold in the U.S. as compared to the cost of the same medications when sold in Canada. The winner correctly picked a markup of 200 percent-plus!

In Part II, contestants must accurately match six months of recipients’ Medicare payment reports with corresponding payment letters from their supplemental insurance companies. The challenge? It can’t be done!

Similar reality shows are in production. A network executive commented, “Sure, there’s poverty, unemployment, sickness, war, and desperation. But look at the bright side, too.”

Tamara A. Turner recently learned that Medicare doesn’t cover dentistry. An $8,000 bill has left her quite irked and waiting for the reality show that will pay for it. Contact her at oct102002@msn.com.

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