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Tony Kornheiser

America's Theater of the Grotesque Is Also Known as Reality Television

August 30, 2000|Tony Kornheiser

I must be the only person in America who hasn't watched one minute of "Survivor." I didn't even watch the finale. What happened? Did Dr. Richard Kimble find the one-armed man?

The fact is, I was afraid to watch the finale for fear that if the Scheming Nudist Richard won, he might celebrate by smooching one of the other survivors the way Al Gore kissed Tipper at the Democratic convention. Speaking of Gore, I'm astounded at his sudden spectacular leap in the polls. The day after the Democratic convention, Gore gained 17 points to draw even with the Bush kid. Millions of Americans favorably changed their minds on Gore overnight! On the basis of what? That kiss? Seriously, how could Gore go up 17 points in one day? This is the presidential election, not the Nikkei, for heaven's sake.

But I digress. Let me get back to "Survivor."

Even in the time it took you to read this far, I still haven't watched it. Because it's idiotic.

Oh, wait, maybe I'm being too harsh. Let me recap what I know about the show.

A bunch of losers agree to become castaways on some island CBS made to look like a hellhole, even though there's a resort a mile away. The people are uniformly despicable--they make George Costanza look like Jonas Salk.


They eat rats. They wear no makeup. They are festooned with scabs and bug bites. If they assembled the cast up on a parapet for a group picture, the caption would read, "Throw out your dead!" (I don't understand it. Ginger was marooned for years on "Gilligan's Island," and she looked great!)

All they wear are bathing suits. It's like " 'Baywatch' From Hell." It's the only show where you're praying the women won't take off their bathing suits. "The people on the show," my friend Tom said, "are so unattractive that after a show is over you want to take a shower," and while the show is on you wish they'd take a shower."

And this kind of TV, according to TV execs, is the Next Great Thing. It will revolutionize network TV because it's so cheap to produce. The contestants do this for nothing! If a network wants to be magnanimous, it throws them a few bones--I mean, literally. After rat on a stick, a few bones will seem like seared foie gras with truffle essence.

The champions of reality-based shows insist the American public doesn't want to see the greedy, beautiful cast of "Friends" anymore--it wants to see ordinary people put in situations of extraordinary conflict.

Oh, please. If I wanted to watch slow-witted, hideous people being nasty to each other, why would I watch it on TV? I can live it at home and at work.

Some suit at CBS insisted, "People are tired of seeing actors who are 35 years old playing 20-year-olds. They're tired of silicone-implanted women."


Speak for yourself, pal. I've got room in my den for all the silicone-implanted women you don't want.

The fact is that real people will tire of seeing real people on TV. TV exists so glamorous people can be on it. That's why Dennis Miller is doing "Monday Night Football" and I'm in an undershirt typing this junk. Not that I'm bitter.

The gold-mine show won't be the "Survivor 2" they're already working on in the Australian outback. The gold mine show would be to take the cast of "Friends" and stick them on an island for 39 days in bathing suits, eating rats and maybe network suits, if that's not redundant. Heck, if Rachel and Monica are going to be in bathing suits, you can stick them on an island for 239 days.

But Ross? I'm snuffing his tiki torch first.

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