Although the reality TV juggernaut has finally slowed, the format continues to plumb fresh nadirs. VH1’s CELEBRITY FIT CLUB combined the desire to humiliate celebrities and our national obsession with fat, while MY FAIR BRADY saw America’s Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry devote an entire season to begging, bullying, and blackmailing (emotionally, of course) ex-Brady Christopher Knight to marry her. (He succumbed.) The dearth of reality TV left some big holes in the fall schedules, plugged with unusually awful dreck like FREDDIE and GHOST WHISPERER. HBO and Showtime’s attempts to make sport with the reality format didn’t turn out so well: THE COMEBACK, Lisa Kudrow’s pseudo-reality sitcom about a washed-up sitcom actress, turned out to be too awkwardly meta for its own good, while Kirstie Alley’s “semi-fictional” series FAT ACTRESS was too desperately transparent (or do I mean transparently desperate?) to generate much in the way of entertainment. The people we count on to deliver the real reality to us—newscasters—found themselves in the middle of a clearance sale. Anyone concerned about the future of news need only look to the relentless rise of two cable anchors this year: MSNBC’s RITA COSBY and CNN’s NANCY GRACE, both mouthy blondes with gratingly shrill voices. Grace salivated over the Terri Schiavo case earlier in the year, while Cosby recently got ghoulish mileage out of Stanley “Tookie” Williams’s death by lethal injection. And over at the CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCA STING (the agency that oversees PBS), the Republican chairman ended his term amid controversy over his attempts to monitor PBS’s supposedly liberal bias. But don’t think his departure will reverse the Republican putsch on public television—the new CPB board is even more solidly right-wing than before.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 13, 2005