Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Reality outwits ABC every time

It seems to me that the entire "reality show" concept on network television is tacit admission that the NEWS has failed. At some point the TV networks gave up on "reality" in the news so completely that they had to start inventing "reality." And they are not very good at it.

ABC News (and I don't mean to single out ABC: all network "news" in this country has a problem with reality; "entertainment" and "reality," are, by definition, polar opposites) is simply another branch of ABC's entertainment mill.

Now we have proof of how inured ABC (and, by extension, every network) is to its failed attempts to create "reality," how wrong-headed they are about what U.S. citizens should see and want to see, and how confused they are about the relationship between ethics and the "bottom line." Since they hardly ever report "reality" on the news, they have no compass by which to judge whether the "reality" of their entertainment is on course or not.

To think that somehow people will be "educated" to their own racism, bigotry, and self-satisfaction by "entertaining" them with a show that demonstrates those characteristics is cynicism beyond belief. And then to whine about how "positive" their attempt at "entertainment-by-bigotry" would have been shows how un-self-critical and without moral compass the entire enterprise of network television has become.

"I didn't think that people would be this nervous," Andrea Wong, head of alternative programming at ABC, said before Wednesday's decision to ditch the show. "Because I really think it's such a positive show and such a good thing to put on TV and cause viewers to look at themselves, I'm surprised by the negative reaction to it."

She is, of course, talking about "Welcome to the Neighborhood," which was to have premiered this Sunday evening, and "followed three families in a comfortable cul-de-sac near Austin, Texas, [who are] given the chance to choose who moves in when a neighbor moves out of a 3,300-square-foot home on their block. Each family is white, conservative and initially interested in neighbors like them." The families they get to choose from turn out to be an African American family, an Hispanic family, an Asian family, a gay couple, a witch, and a white family in which the wife is a stripper. (In any other situation, one might rejoice in the ALL-AMERICAN nature of their choices.)

ABC can't understand why giving the cul-de-sac crowd the right to vote one of these families out of the neighborhood each week is offensive. I'm not suggesting that a group of neighbors of any other racial make-up in any other neighborhood would necessarily have been able to make a more "moral" decision. I am simply wondering out loud how ABC could have been surprised that so many people found their show odious.

And against the law. And immoral. And disgusting.

It's no wonder that my students believe that "affirmative action" is reverse discrimination. Or that Senator Kennedy can't find one Republican to co-sponsor the extension of the Voting Rights Act because "racism is no longer a problem in the United States." Or that Governor Good-Hair Perry can seriously invite all gays and lesbians in Texas to move somewhere else.

But, of course, one would need a compass, moral or otherwise, to find somewhere else to live besides on ABC television or in Governor Perry's ideal state.

Read all about ABC's bewilderment: