Alibi V.13 No.16 • April 15-21, 2004 

Idiot Box

The Cutting Edge

“The Swan” on FOX

I love TV. I really do. But I'm beginning to think that it's some kind of sick, abusive relationship. There are times that TV just doesn't treat me with the slightest ounce of respect. There are times when TV blatantly insults my intelligence. And there are times when I just want to smack TV upside its big, fat cathode ray. Take, for example, “The Swan.”

Before FOX's newest reality show even debuted, TV critics came out of the woodwork to condemn it as the bottom of the reality show barrel. The premise of the show certainly seems like it would be sickening to the majority of well-adjusted human beings. Each week, the show introduces viewers to a couple of “ugly ducklings” lacking even the tiniest shred of self-esteem. The show offers up thousands of dollars in plastic surgery to help “transform” these unfortunate gals into stunningly generic, big-boobed bimbos still lacking even the tiniest shred of self-esteem. Then, to add humiliating insult to scarified injury, the show tosses them immediately into a beauty contest, pitting them against each other and kicking off the one who is deemed least attractive.

Americans, obviously not bored with the reality show genre no matter what they say, made “The Swan” a big hit in its debut outing last week. Apparently FOX can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

FOX hardly deserves the singular hatred of uptight viewers and critics, however. In fact, FOX is merely following a trend that seems to have obsessed TV viewers lately. ABC has found itself a big hit with the “Extreme Makeover” series, which combines all the icky thrills of live surgery with the uneasy voyeurism of watching unstable people find happiness through invasive, unnecessary surgery. (Just look at all it's done for Michael Jackson!)

Even more frightening is MTV's series “I Want a Famous Face,” in which stupid young people go under the knife so that they can look like a freakish clone of their favorite stars such as Pamela Anderson, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears. I'm not much for moralizing, but what the hell kind of message is this sending to the impressionable teen audiences of MTV, who already go to idiotic lengths to imitate their teenybopper idols? Twenty years from now, is that gal going to be happy she looks exactly like long-forgotten '90s icon Britney Spears? Imagine if MTV had produced this show 20 years ago? Would we have a bunch of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson clones wandering around today? Those are the kind of thoughts that keep me awake at night.

So here's my idea for a guaranteed hit reality show: A dozen network programming executives pitch their ideas for new TV series. The exec with the worst idea gets shoved into a guillotine and executed on live television. Now that's must see TV!