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The next step in reality TV

February 27th, 2003

Live-in game shows (often called ‘reality TV’ for no reason I can fathom) are all the rage and it seems we’re in for more. The Survivor sub-genre is harmless fun – Gladiators set in exotic locations – but the boom seems to be in variants on the ‘mating game’.

The aim appears to be to make each show more creepily disgusting than the lost, but the obvious routes of simple depravity (Chains of Love) and grossout (Fear Factor) don’t seem to work. The most successful theme (Who wants to Marry a Millionaire etc) seems to be to get as close as possible to inducing the contestants to prostitute themselves without crossing the line into reality (where, of course, this can be arranged for much less money and with less loss of self-respect on both sides than in the TV version). And we now have nasty versions of Candid Camera, as in Joe Millionaire.

So here’s my suggested ‘ultimate reality TV’, at least as far as the ‘mating game’ sub-genre goes. The show is sold to participants as a ripoff of The Bachelor etc, with a number of participants seeking to be the last one left to receive an offer of marriage. The trick is that after the game is complete, the Bachelor or Bachelorette is told that, to win the prize, they have to make the offer to the first person they rejected. [The Bachelors/Bachelorettes would be screened to ensure that they would be the type to accept the offer]. The episodes are then shown in reverse, starting with the one in which the trick (but not the identity of the bride/groom) is revealed, and working backwards, with each episode introducing a more unappealing candidate than the last, and the final episode revealing the lucky bride/groom for the first time. With luck, this would be literally the ultimate in games of this kind.

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