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MY TEAM IS BETTER THAN YOUR TEAM: With the next season of Survivor about to start, Jeff Probst hosted a conference call with members of the press hyping the show and its new Chinese location. He also did some choice breast-beating, telling Chuck Barney of the Contra Costa Times among others that, as far as he was concerned, the vast majority of the reality TV genre “is crap.”
“I feel like the level of BS and loosely scripted moments is reaching a plateau for me,” Probst said. “I can write them (the scenarios) before they’re finished,” he said. “They’re so obvious and I think an audience can sense that on an emotional level. It doesn’t feel real.”
Probst didn’t name any particular show, but he’d have to spend a long time if he did, what with the vast range of reality TV permutations that have come to fill the airwaves since The Real World debuted on MTV fifteen years ago. Reality TV has mutated to fill niches in every programming format from primetime and game shows to food television and history channels, and has shown a flexibility of style to compete with sitcoms (The Osbournes), dramas (The Apprentice) and even news programming (PBS’ 1900 House) for the same audiences.
Perhaps because of his position on one of the venerable hulks in the reality TV lagoon, Probst seems to have come over all purist about the genre. Of course, there’s nothing more real than a desert island where castaways have regular obstacle course challenges, win meals and visits with relatives, and get together regularly to eliminate other castaways whose strength and skill might actually help them if, say, they were really threatened with starvation. It just depends on your level of BS, of course.
WHAT YOU DON’T SEE WON’T HURT US: Wednesday night’s premiere of CBS’ controversial Kid Nation will happen in the midst of what the network obviously hopes will be a press vacuum, with news that screeners of the debut episode won’t be sent out to critics previous to the airing.
“It is comparatively rare in TV, where, I can personally testify, even the worst premiere episodes get sent to critics,” said Dave Walker, president of the Television Critics Assn. and a critic at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, to the Hollywood Reporter. The reality show, which features 40 children forced to fend for themselves in a ghost town, has been buffeted by accusations of child abuse and violations of labour laws for most of the summer, and CBS would obviously like to mute these stories at least until the show has a chance to attract an audience who might have been at the cottage since at least June.
“Given the controversies that have already surfaced about this series, it appears to be both pre-emptive and last-gasp damage control, and it won’t work,” said Walker, which sounds like a threat, if you ask me.