Murder, Molestation, Racism, and other Reality Show Disasters….

It was UPN. I had stupidly left an amazing PR job because I thought this could lead to something. I was twenty-two, young, naive and was working on a show called, Chains of Love which was produced by Endemol which appears to have become the Endemol Shine Group. Anyway, yes, I worked on Chains of Love which was Elimidate but with chains. Four women chained to one man or four men chained to one woman and every couple of days someone would be “unlocked”. I cringe as I write the words. It aired in 2001 and I worked as a script supervisor. I wrote every awful word these people said to each other. I remember sitting on a bus and listening to the producer of the show as he stood up and loudly declared that this would be a hit. It took all my strength to not scream out, “or maybe something that rhymes with hit? Starts with an “S”? I remember talking to one contestant whom I had liked but when the cameras were on, she became awful. I looked at her and went, “you do realize, they’re going to make you look awful?” Her response? “You really think people are gonna watch this?” She had a valid point and was right. The show was awful and the only two people I miss? The host, Madison Michele, who was so sweet and the Locksmith whom I don’t remember his name but he was this big cuddly guy who once confided in me that he felt so bad standing there with his sunglasses on because the contestants were told be scared of him and he didn’t like scaring people. I don’t remember anyone else’s name and I have no clue if any of the contestants are even still together.

Reality shows have become a normal part of the culture now. Everything from teenagers getting pregnant to people dating naked, weight loss shows, cooking shows, competitions, everything is now made for television and seems in light of the recent TLC scandal regarding the Duggar Family of 19 Kids and Counting, more questions are being raised about reality television, about the screening process and how anyone with a computer seems to be able to find information that escapes the producers of the show in the first place. I don’t think were any scandals from Chains of Love although perhaps the show itself could be a scandal and it wasn’t successful enough to warrant people actually taking the time to figure anything out but what about shows that become popular, how are those stories passing through?

Megan Wants to Marry a Millionaire

This show aired on VH1 in 2009 and starred Megan Hauserman who I remembered from Beauty and the Geek and thought she was so sweet but now, she’s over geeks and wants to marry a rich guy. Although, I’m pretty sure I saw her partner from Beauty and the Geek at a Halloween party once dressed as the patient in the Operation Board Game and he walked around asking girls to carefully pick his largest bone, so I think we can all agree….missed opportunity.  Score. Anyway, in this show, she’s all about that cash. Kinda like all about that bass, but not really. This show ended up being canceled after three episodes, which, by the way, Chains of Love lasted for six. We win. The reason it was canceled was because one of the contestants, Ryan Jenkins killed his girlfriend, Jasmine Fiore and then killed himself. How did he manage to pass a psychological screening? What’s bizarre is two years prior to the murder, he was convicted for assaulting a woman but no one at the production company, 51 Minds, was aware of this? Why were they not aware of this if they do extensive background checks? This was clearly a dangerous person who was unstable, how did all of this pass through?

Big Brother

So many controversies, so little time. First, there was season 8 where Evel Dick bullied another contestant so severely that it was hard to watch at times. He even poured iced tea over the head of a female contestant while verbally abusing her. He was not evicted but instead won his season. In season 15, many of the houseguests including Ginamarie Zimmerman and Aayrn Gries made several racist and homophobic remarks that ended up costing both of them their jobs in the real world. In seasons 2, 4, 6, 11 and 14, houseguests were removed from the game due to violent behavior. Season 2’s Justin Sebik held a large knife up to the neck of a female contestant and asked if she would be mad if he killed her. The female contestant later sued the show. Gee, I wonder how come?

Real World

A show that recently aired its thirtieth season has been known for its share of controversies as well. Cast members have been evicted for being violent towards other cast members although as seen in the most recent season, Real World: Skeletons, automatic eviction due to beating up your fellow houseguests is now no big deal as last season showed two female houseguests dragging and beating up another female houseguest with really no repercussions at all.  This is a huge departure from the days where beating someone up meant automatic expulsion although on the Challenges  (the spin-off show featuring people from Real World and Road Rules) that rule does apply. There have also been contestants with severe substance abuse problems. Joey Kovar from the Hollywood season left the show to go to rehab and sadly passed away several years ago due to a drug overdose.  I also remember the Hawaii season where Ruthie, clearly intoxicated, got into a car drove off with no production interference which was quite shocking. Real World is known for showing people dealing with some very real struggles but when there’s violence? When there is a threat to someone’s life, shouldn’t someone step in? Also, these past two seasons are very manipulated to such an extreme that it no longer seems real in the slightest.

Duck Dynasty

In an interview with GQ magazine in 2013, Duck Dynasty patriarch, Phil Robertson made some incredibly racist and homophobic remarks stating that homosexuality is a sin. He was briefly suspended from the show  Videos have also surfaced of Robertson saying some fairly disturbing things including stories about Atheists being murdered and that STD’s are the legacy of hippies, Communists and Nazi’s. I have no sarcastic jokes to make here because I am still trying to understand….what now?

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Another TLC show that recently came under fire and was recently cancelled due to the fact that Mama June was dating the man who molested one of her daughters, Chickadee. This show, while fun to watch, did cross the lines of child exploitation and also showed some very unhealthy eating choices. The family was often portrayed as unintelligent and there was some feeling that they were being mocked and maybe weren’t in on the joke. While they never appeared unhappy with the choices they were making, it did feel like we were watching just to laugh at them and also how to make spaghetti sauce with 87 pounds of butter.

Breaking Amish

Yet another TLC show ripe with controversy. The premise of this show is that young people are breaking free from their Amish background and are sacrificing everything to live in the English world. Problem? Through research, the majority of the people on Breaking Amish have lived in the English world before. Rebecca and Abe were shown as being practically strangers on the show yet rumors swirled that they not only knew each other but had a child together. Jeremiah was shown as never having driven a car or owned a phone, which according to reports he had done both….many times and Sabrina was married in 2009. There are websites devoted to uncovering the inconsistencies found in Breaking Amish as it really does not seem to be true at all. Maybe next season it will be revealed that no one is actually Amish?

Paula Deen

Oh, Paula Deen. First, there was the fact that she is diabetic yet continued to promote recipes that are high in sugar and fat.  This is quite hypocritical on her part and she could have actually done some good here. She could have figured out ways to make healthy recipes for those who struggle with diabetes or those who want to take sugar out of their diets but instead chose not to which is disappointing but of course not quite as disappointing as her hugely racist remarks that ended up destroying her career and her empire. She is currently trying to rebuild her empire and apparently will be at the opening of a Cajun and Southern Restaurant in Thomasville, Georgia on June 27th.

Toddlers and Tiaras/Dance Moms

A four-year-old fake smoking on stage. A three-year-old dressed up as Julia Robert’s prostitute character in Pretty Woman. The world of child pageantry looks downright terrifying and very creepy. Exploitation at its finest and I am curious about the background check on a show like this? How is it okay to exploit children in such a way? I lumped Dance Moms into the same category but it does feel rather exploitative and in Dance Moms, you have Abby Lee Miller who just yells at everyone and it just seems rather unnecessary.

The Real Housewives of….

You’ve had the suicide of Taylor Armstrong’s husband and there’s also Kim Richards who is clearly dealing with serious substance abuse issues and Teresa Guidice who is currently in prison. Where is the line here? Now, we are just watching people lives fall apart. I understand the drama but if real people are ending up dead or in prison, maybe it’s time to take a step back?

American Idol

Frenchie Davis got voted off for naked pictures although she did later compete on The Voice and made it pretty far. There has also been a lot of controversy over the years that the show is rigged. Paula Abdul one time critiqued Jason Castro on a song he had not sung yet and she was also once accused of carrying on a relationship with a contestant. In season 11, Jermaine Jones was kicked off for concealing past crimes which once again, how did no one find out about this before the show started? Anyway, Idol is ending next year and I have happily held on to the bitter end, but it had definitely been a long and bumpy road for Idol. It will be sad to see it end.

Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant

Does this show glorify teen pregnancy or does it help prevent it? On this show, we’ve seen some of the moms react in violence towards their partners and their children. We’ve seen baby daddies act in neglectful and sometimes cruel ways. We’ve seen one teen mom become a porn star. Some of the 16 and Pregnant teens who did make it onto Teen Mom have been arrested as well as many who did not.  I went out on a few dates once with a guy who did some production stuff for Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant and his comment was that it is all fun and games until you remember that there are little kids involved. I wonder what will happen with these kids get older and watch their parents on television? Is it taking it too far?

And now for the one causing the most headlines of the moment…..duh, duh, duh…. (that’s my drumroll):
19 Kids and Counting…..

The Duggar family live Tontitown, Arkansas and have been on TLC since 2008.  Before the charges that Josh Duggar molested several young girls, including some of his sisters and that there was an apparent coverup with help from a police officer who is apparently now in prison due to charges unrelated to the Duggars, they have been able to attract headlines on their own. Michelle Duggar, the matriarch, called abortion a “baby holocaust” and they’ve been quite vocal in their stance against gay rights. This most recent scandal, however, seems to be the one that might end up crumbling the Duggar empire. Advertisers have pulled from the show and it is now being removed from Hulu and from TLC.

My question is this….how much did they know? How much do producers know about the people they cast? It’s show business, but it is a business. I wonder if Chains of Love had been on the air today, what the reports would have said? What groups would have protested it? Would the protest have resulted in the show lasting for more than six episodes, maybe it would have gone for seven? It was still an awful show….


So where is that line in reality television? Maybe it’s no longer there and the business might be more important than the show?

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