By Jason Menard
“Hey, let’s throw it up on the wall and let’s see if this sticks!” It’s long seemed to be the mantra of the television executive but, increasingly, it appears that we’re buying whatever they’re selling. Mainly because no matter what the product is, the packaging is sexy, and sex sells on TV!
We’re now into the summer season, at time where re-runs once ruled the roost. But now, especially with the proliferation of reality television, no topic seems to be taboo – and ideas that would once be laughed out of the pitch room are now being embraced by TV execs and the viewing public alike.
There once was a day when Bob Vila was toiling away in relative obscurity on PBS and Wok With Yan was a guilt pleasure, enjoyed by a select few. But now, the digital channel revolution seems to have opened the spigot on this type of programming and a deluge of copycat shows are flooding various networks.
No matter where I turn, there’s another home renovation show, all with just a slightly different twist on the others. Let’s switch houses! Let’s rebuild a restaurant! Let’s let the kids re-do their rooms! Let’s show somebody organizing someone else’s house! Organizing someone else’s house? When did filing become must-see T.V. The adage “As exciting as watching paint dry,” used to have a negative connotation – but now we have entire networks dedicated to doing just that! And it’s not just the channels dedicated to this type of programming that are jumping on the stylishly redesigned bandwagon – even CNN is dabbling in business makeover programs!
Cooking shows have enjoyed a similar popularity surge. We’re now at the point where the term celebrity chef is no longer an oxymoron and some have even attained sex symbol status. And millions of us watch these shows – spending hours enjoying not just the finished result, whether it’s a home or a meal. But it’s not just the beauty of the room or the dish we’re appreciating – it’s the beauty of the host or hostess.
Case in point is the summer hit Dancing with the Stars. Essentially, it’s ballroom dancing (with a dash of other styles) being served up to the mass market. But we’re watching it – I’m watching it! And why? What’s making it succeed? Sex.
As a society, we like watching beautiful people. It’s what we do. It’s why our magazine racks are filled with countless gossip magazines and it’s why there are a million and one interchangeable Entertainment Tonight-esque shows on TV. It’s also why I’m watchingDancing with the Stars. I’ll be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest dance fan. And, although I find myself mildly entertained by this show (and channeling an inner critic I didn’t know I had – as if my two left feet could do any better), the fact is that I – and many of my brethren – am watching this show for prurient interests. Hello Kelly Monaco, I’m talking to you.
The TV executives know we’re slaves to our libido. It’s why the masses know who Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson are, but other women – who actually have some sort of talent that doesn’t extend to wearing a halter top – toil in relative obscurity. We live in a time where a beautiful woman can sell millions of records without actually being able to hit a note – paging Ms. Lopez – and when ballroom dancing can be a success as long as you put a few beautiful people in skimpy dance costumes.
It works for both genders. Ty Pennington, who’s biggest talent appears to be the ability to annoy, is a bona-fide sex symbol, know more for his abs than his proficiency with a hammer. No matter how much lip service we pay to the idea that it’s what’s inside that counts, when push comes to shove we want good-looking entertainment.
Sex sells. Embracing that idea is how we know reality and specialty TV is maturing. Check out the rosters of shows like Survivor and the Amazing Race – they’re inordinately skewed towards the buff and beautiful, aspiring actors and models. The majority of the stars of cooking, design, and makeover shows are not just easy-going, they’re easy on the eyes. That’s because TV execs realize that we want a filtered reality. We don’t want to see everyday people in extraordinary situations – we still want reality wrapped up in a pretty package. And that’s why we’ll watch ballroom dancing if there’s a hot guy or girl doing it!
So, to all you aspiring actors and actresses out there, no matter what idea you have for a TV show, pitch it. Because, more and more, it doesn’t matter if the idea’s good – it’s only important that you look good doing it.
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