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What To Do When You Have Too Much Time

The Cirque du Soleil marathon was on Bravo, so of course I watched the whole thing. Then—what do you know?—there was a reality show about the cast members and pre-production of the show! Of course I was sucked right in, and now I have a Season Pass on Tivo, so I never have to miss an episode. So let’s briefly recap the crap that I have subjected myself to over the last 2 days, then lets take a moment to reflect on the week’s remaining TV schedule.
Sunday: High School Reunion, wherein a group of 28-year-olds get to relive all of their high school drama. My opinion: Has potential, even though it annoyed the crap out of me. Still, I’ll never miss an episode.
Monday: Joe Millionaire, wherein 20 gold diggers fight for the man they think is a multimillionaire. Sordid and cheesy, and I want to kill Heidi, but entertaining nonetheless, and it requires absolutely no thought or analysis on my part, which, let’s face it, is the mark of a good show. Escapism rocks, baby!
Also on Monday, Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within, a show that follows the performers and production of the show. A little more stimulating and perhaps more redeeming than say, The Bachelorette (see Wednesday). Next week, we’ll add The It Factor to Monday’s line-up.
Tuesday: Sad to say, there is nothing remotely reality-related on Tuesday nights, so I will use this time to catch up my reading. Believe it or not, right now I’m re-reading Faust. Ahhh, the dichotomy that is me.
Wednesday: This is the only night of the week that poses a problem, becuase there are too many shows on! I will never miss The West Wing, which truly is the best and smartest show on television. However, tomorrow night is also the premiere of The Bachelorette, and we really can’t miss the chance to see Trista make the men beg, can we? However, Celebrity Mole also airs tomorrow. While I don’t think that this one will be as entertaining as the previous two, I’m still gonna give it a shot. It’s iffy, though, since there will be no Anderson Cooper.
Thursday: I think I’ll give The Surreal Life a whirl. Come on! It’s got Webster and Andrea from 90210. You know you wanna watch…
Thankfully, we are not home on Fridays, since it is date night, and I work on Saturdays. Sundays, which usually belong to HBO, will now have to share the distinction with the WB. Oh dear God. Help me. Someone intervene, quick. It’s no wonder I’m an insomniac! I would have to be in order to justify wasting so much of my time with this crap! Oh well. Everyone is entitled to their guilty little pleasures, and apparently, I have absolutely no qualms about airing my dirty laundry for all to see.
Go ahead and watch. You know you want to…

2 Responses to “What To Do When You Have Too Much Time”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Reality bites back as TV shows face suits
    By Adam Liptak
    The New York Times

    James and Laurie Ann Ryan’s Las Vegas vacation last January was more exciting than they would have liked. Soon after they checked into the Hard Rock Hotel, they found what appeared to be a body in the bathtub. When they tried to leave, hotel security guards and a paramedic detained them.

    Philip Zelnick was surprised, too, when he went to catch a plane at an Arizona airport. A security guard made him lie down on a conveyor belt and pass through the X-ray machine. It left him, he said, humiliated and “bleeding all over the place.”

    Both incidents were practical jokes, manufactured by TV shows. But the Ryans and Zelnick were not amused, and they have sued the producers.

    Lawsuits against the unscripted entertainment shows known as reality TV used to be filed by people who got hurt imitating stunts on shows such as Jackass or believed that the rules on shows like Survivor were applied unfairly.

    Now, media lawyers and insurance executives say that a new sort of lawsuit, involving claims of serious physical and emotional injury to the participants themselves, is on the rise.

    These suits raise the question, as one filed last month put it, of how the law should address “the public’s apparent craving to witness real-life physical and emotional turmoil.” That suit was filed by a woman who said she was badly hurt in a device called “the harness of pain” on a pilot for a CBS show.

    Whatever the legal answer, the suits are changing the economics of this famously cheap form of programming.

    “The extraordinary growth of reality programs could only inevitably lead to an equally extraordinary growth in claims,” said Sandra Baron, the executive director of the Media Law Resource Center, which collects information about lawsuits against news organizations and entertainment companies.

    “Insurance is going to soar,” Baron said, “and litigation costs are going to go through the roof.”

    Bob Banner, who produced Candid Camera in the 1960s, said he could not recall a lawsuit against that show.

    “We never tried to embarrass people or put them in a precarious situation,” Banner said. “We did much gentler things.”

    Times have changed, said Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents plaintiffs in two suits pending against reality shows. The reasons, she said, are both cultural and economic.

    “Humiliation TV sells,” Allred said.

    A new version of Candid Camera, which appears on the Pax network, was responsible for injuring Zelnick at an airport in Bullhead City, Ariz., in the summer of 2001.

    Zelnick, 35, a personal fitness trainer from Palm Springs, Calif., said he felt coerced into lying on the conveyor belt.

    “My first reaction was that it had to be a joke,” he said. “I asked if it was Candid Camera.”

    Peter Funt, the show’s host, was wearing the uniform of an airport security guard. He assured Zelnick that the request was serious.

    “You can’t joke about these things in an airport,” Funt said.

    Funt did not let Zelnick in on the joke until he emerged bruised, bloody and screaming in pain.

    The segment was not broadcast, but similar ones have been popular as “a parody of security in airports,” Funt said in an interview.

    Funt, the son of Allen Funt, the original show’s creator and host, said the idea was not representative of the show’s usual approach. “It breaks my heart to find myself within the cesspool of reality TV shows,” he said.

    He conceded that he felt pressure from newer approaches.

    “It becomes harder and harder,” he said, “to hold to standards you believe in when your competitors are fast and furious and footloose and are seeming to have at least some temporary success.”

    Funt did not express particular sympathy for Zelnick.

    “We accidentally hurt somebody,” he said. “I was relieved that it wasn’t worse and upset that it happened at all. We turned it over to our insurance company. He was offered a token amount, a few thousand dollars, and he turned it down.”

    The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial this year.

    Reality shows that do not involve hidden cameras can try to protect themselves from suits by insisting on releases from participants.

    Jill Mouser and Marcus Russell, a Los Angeles couple, signed such releases before being flown, blindfolded, to what turned out to be the Arizona-New Mexico border for the pilot of a CBS show called Culture Shock in October.

    Mouser, a 29-year-old saleswoman, said she suffered severe pain and lasting injury after being hung for 40 minutes with her back bent unnaturally in a harness.

    She and another woman were competing for $100,000 in the final event of the pilot, held at an Indian reservation. The woman who lasted longest was to win the money.

    The show added an element of emotional tension, too. Russell, a 33-year-old film director, held the line that kept Mouser suspended, making him responsible for her agony.

    When she was eventually lowered, screaming, she was given morphine, placed on a backboard and driven to a hospital more than an hour away.

    “When does it stop?” Russell asked. “When someone is going to die?”

    Mouser and Russell said they had been pressured to sign a second release four days into the competition and immediately before she was placed in the harness. They said they were told they would forfeit their shot at the prize if they did not sign.

    Lawyers for CBS and Rocket Science Laboratories, which is producing Culture Shock, did not respond to requests to comment.

    James and Laurie Ann Ryan, whose Las Vegas vacation was ruined, have sued the Hard Rock Hotel and MTV, which is producing Harassment, the show that arranged the stunt.

    The host of Harassment, actor Ashton Kutcher, has described the show as “guerrilla Candid Camera. ”

    Jonathan Anschell, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents the defendants in the suit — MTV, the Hard Rock Hotel and Kutcher — declined to comment, citing the pending litigation and a confidentiality agreement.

    Barry Langberg, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents the Ryans, said only that lawsuits can moderate the conduct of the producers of such shows.

    “Something like this is done for no other reason than to embarrass people or humiliate them or scare them,” Langberg said. “The producers don’t care about human feelings. They don’t care about being decent. They only care about money.”

    TV executives love reality programming because it is cheap. But the recent spate of lawsuits may prove costly, and insurance companies have already raised the rates for reality shows significantly.

    “Premiums have nearly doubled,” said Chad Milton, a senior vice president of the Marsh insurance brokerage firm and an expert in media insurance, referring to coverage for large companies, “and deductibles have gone up in quantum jumps.”

  2. Merrin Says:

    Perhaps I should make something clear:
    I watch these shows because they make me feel better about my own pitiful little life. Now, as to the Candid Camera-esque stunts, I do not, nor would I ever, approve of crap like that. However, in the case of the woman who was hurt in “the harness of pain”, she was obviously aware that she was taking part in the filming of a TV show pilot, ergo, it’s her own fault for being a moron and getting in the damn thing in the first place. Reality TV is escapism, pure and simple. It’s an opportunity to laugh at the lengths to which idiots are willing to go for a paltry amount of money, or even better, a spouse.
    Now, Kevin, allow me to point out that you were never willing to miss an episode of the Amazing Race.




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