Reality shows we'd like to see

Is anything more unreal than "reality" shows on TV?

All across the nation, slack-jawed viewers spend hours every week watching people get fired, swap wives, jump from cliffs, eat spiders, lie down with snakes, race around the world and vote each other off islands.

The central conceit of such programming is that it's all "real," that we're watching a slice of actual life. This is, of course, complete and utter bunk. These shows are no more about real life than "The Jerry Springer Show" is about helping families solve problems.

There's nothing "real" about being stranded on an island with a half-dozen strangers. It almost never happens in real life, and when it does, there aren't dozens of cameramen, producers and caterers running around in the background.

On all these shows, the contestants know the cameras are there, and they can't help playing to them. Emotions are ramped up. Everybody's trying for an Emmy.

Despite every attempt to drum up the fake suspense, we viewers know nothing too terrible will happen on these shows. If somebody got killed skydiving on "The Billionaire," we'd read about it in the newspaper long before the show ever aired. In fact, the network probably would cancel the show rather than air an episode that included an actual death. Probably.

Networks like reality programming because it's cheap to produce -- no scripts -- and because it gets good ratings. People watch; I don't know why.

But I wouldn't be a true-blue American if I didn't try to make a buck off this trend. I'd like to suggest that the networks focus on people like me, who work at home. For those of us trapped at home by our jobs, housework and children, life is just brimming with "reality." We can hardly move around the house without stepping in some.

Here are some ideas for home-based reality shows:

"Smear Factor"
Eleven kids are given jars of strawberry jam and are turned loose on the eggshell-white walls of a suburban house. Hilarity results when the homeowner has a heart attack.

"Stupor Nanny"
Parents leave their kids in the care of a gin-soaked British nanny, who promptly passes out, giving the children the run of the place. Soon, the house resembles a scene from "Lord of the Flies."

"The Amazing Grace"
Each week, cameras record a family dinner where someone goes on and on, blessing the food, which gets cold while the others fidget and fret. Suspense builds until the prayer ends, either with an "amen" or when someone gets stabbed with a fork.

"American Midol"
A PMS-crazed mom faces a demanding husband and screaming children. Tension mounts until she snaps and sets the house on fire.

"Pants Swap"
A comedy show about people forced to trade pants for a week. Fat guys nearly always lose.

"Super Bowl Dad"
Wife and kids risk their lives by standing in front of the TV at crucial points in the game.

"Who Wants to Bury A Billionaire?"
Advice-spouting rich guy parachutes into a suburban neighborhood where all the residents have been armed with shovels.

"Survivor: Laundry Day"
Parents are stranded in a washateria with their family's filthy clothes. Dare they wash the kids' jeans without first checking the pockets? What if a red sock gets mixed in with the whites?

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice"
Donald Trump's comb-over magically becomes a dancing broom.

"Extreme Makeover: Television"
Network programming is rebuilt from the ground up. All entertainment and creativity are removed, replaced by regular folks doing inane things in their homes until, eventually, each home is equipped with a camera and we all just sit around, watching other couch potatoes staring at TV.

Now that's what I call "reality."

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