The 1988 writers strike taught the folks at Fox that they could rely on their shows Cops and America’s Most Wanted to stay afloat. When talks of a 2001 strike began, CBS knew they had an ace-in-the-hole with Survivor. In fact, the show turned out to be one of the largest boons in the history of television. The “reality” genre exploded with every network jumping on board. When the 2008 writers strike rolled around, the writers were put in a tough spot -- somewhere between an unscripted, historical Presidential election and American Idol -- and we’ve just been stuck in reality hell ever since.
I don’t think anyone ever thought it would last this long. And I certainly don’t think anyone could have predicted that, when the writers got back to work, they’d write fictional shows that are supposed to look like reality shows. But here we are, lost in a sea of duck callers and dance groups. Some networks are better at executing the reality format than others. It’s tough to say which is the absolute best (probably Bravo), but I can tell you which is the worst: ABC. Yeah, I know they have Dancing With the Stars and The Bachelor/Bachelorette (though really the concept of finding love this way is just bizarre) and everyone loves those. I know they have Extreme Weightloss and that’s fascinating. But this season they also have Bet On Your Baby, a show where families bet on their children’s ability to complete tasks, in exchange for money for their college funds; Splash, a rip-off of a British reality show where D-list celebs jump off a high dive; and the worst/best show on television Celebrity Wife Swap (FYI: Wife Swap was originally a British show too, so we aren’t even original in our misguided programming).
Pardon me, but how is this a real show? Am I the only person who remembers the Chappelle’s Show sketch “Trading Spouses?” The one where Dave Chappelle thought our nation’s reality show infatuation was so ridiculous that trading spouses seemed hysterical. Then it became an actual show (well, two, actually). Then, the geniuses at ABC decided to call up some non-busy celebrities to participate and Celebrity Wife Swap was born.
I don’t watch TV very often. I generally stick to Hulu Plus catch-ups after the original airing. However, on occasion I’ve been known to flip on the TV for some news or noise. On one such occasion, I was happy to discover a program where Coolio and Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray swap wives. I was riveted. My initial reaction was probably similar to yours, as evidenced by my tweets during the show.