What would be less exciting than hearing that Britney Spears got married for another 48 hours? Easy: That the Yada-Yada-Yada television network was planning a new reality show in which cameras caught people looking nasty and ridiculous.
Reality shows have proliferated to such a degree that now there are genres within the genre: Reality game shows, reality adventure shows and reality talent shows (in which most of the "talent" is, indeed, a fantasy). Reality shows breed fiercely enough during the regular season; in summer there's an even greater glut, mainly because such programs are cheap to produce and, if they fail to draw ratings, they can be quickly flushed away and replaced with something else.
This summer's new reality shows have so far included "Next Action Star," an NBC hour in which aspiring stuntpersons crash through fake glass, make car tires squeal and -- perhaps the hardest stunt -- live together in a big house without biting one another's ears off. NBC hopes their spatting and spitting will stop just short of that.
For those of us who have no desire to see amateur stuntpersons conk one another with breakaway bottles, Court TV ought to think about doing an alternative program in which we get to see the legal disclaimers that contestants have to sign so that, no matter how many broken bones, bruises and abrasions they might sustain, they still cannot sue NBC.
The model for such contracts -- other than the one negotiated by Groucho and Chico Marx in "A Night at the Opera" ("there ain't no Sanity Clause") -- has to be the one for NBC's "Fear Factor," the reality stunt show in which men and women allow themselves to be stung by scorpions and tossed out of helicopters. Lately there've been "special" versions of this series, and we know the one we'd like to see: "Fear Factor -- NBC Executive Edition." We happy viewers would get to see how Mercedes-driving sickos with the self-closing doors react when tarantulas dance on their pampered, Botoxed faces.
There'd be no danger of brain damage because -- well, after all, we're talking about NBC programmers.
The WB, meanwhile, is wrapping up its own imitation of "American Idol," the Fox schlock about eager amateurs trying to turn the heads of viewers out there in Television Land. "Idol" created a ruckus recently when contestants worthy of winning got passed over for defective aspirants -- or wait, maybe a "defective aspirant" is a clogged-up nose spray. Anyway, "Idol" is in dry dock until the fall -- even though it, too, started as a cheap summer replacement show.
Absolutely everyone gets bitten by the nightmare bug eventually. No penny-ante cable network wants to be found without a ticky-tacky reality hour on its schedule. Cooking channels, travel channels and gardening channels all have their own versions of this most inescapable program format. Tomorrow, Comedy Central introduces "Crossballs," a mock debate show in which, according to network publicity, "comedians pose as experts and debate real people who don't know the show is fake."
American Movie Classics, which is supposed to have something to do with American movie classics, recently began "Into Character," its own pathetic version of a reality embarrassment series. On this funless romp, contestants get to play their favorite characters in their favorite scenes from their favorite movies. Sort of like cinema karaoke, except the people working at AMC probably don't know what a fancy word like "cinema" means.
Here's a description of the series -- mouth-watering and mind-numbing -- from AMC publicists themselves: " 'Into Character' is a distinctive hyper-reality anthology showcase that brings larger-than-life to real life, by presenting everyday movie fans the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live out their favorite movie scene fantasies." AMC also notes modestly that the series "is among the most uncompromisingly original programs which supports AMC network's brand identity -- TV for Movie People."
But wait. We thought the network's brand identity was "TV for Stupid People."
Finally, in the Never Say a Horse Is Dead Without One More Beating Dept., Robert Englund, the sleazy ham who played Freddy Krueger in the ever more desperate "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies, will host a new CBS reality junk show called "Nightmare on Elm Street: Real Nightmares," in which contestants will reveal their scariest fantasies and then have to live through lavishly produced reenactments of them.
Englund told Daily Variety that he's interested in "what lurks in America's nightmares" so he can "find out what makes 'em scream." Here's one thing that makes " 'em" scream, Robert: Attempts to keep long-expired movie franchises alive by turning them into hokey, croaky, creaky and creepy reality shows.
Quick, everybody -- run for the nearest library, concert hall or movie theater before it's too late!