“Reality TV” will of course burn itself out, but it will probably get worse before it gets better, if that’s at all conceivable. I think I’m right on this; I know, right now we’re beseiged with ghastly things, from “Fear Factor: The Wonder Years,” which shows Fred Savage rolling around in a room full of thumbtacks to “Who Wants To Marry That Guy From Picket Fences?”, which features a haggard-looking Darva Conger steadfastly refusing to indulge “whodat?” actor Costas Mandylor’s penchant for cleansing enemas. And yet, all of these shudderingly awful spectacles are still more appealing than watching network war coverage. “And now, more blurry things turn bright orange and smoke. Brought to you by Colgate.”
Here’s what has to go first though: the fucking kids. Ever since “American Idol” hit the U.S. (ripped off from the identically suicide-pact-inducing Brit hit “Pop Idol;” I’d like to say it’s another example of America ruining another country’s fun idea, a la “Changing Rooms” or “Iron Chef” but this show was imported more or less intact and pre-ruined), we’ve seen a sudden disturbing ancillary phenomenon that can be classified as Those Cute Fucking Leather-Lunged Kids! Since it’s never too early to start destroying the lives of our children, first “Star Search” was exhumed, fortunately without the shambling corpse of Ed McMahon, who nonetheless remains conveniently brined should we ever need him. Then I started seeing ads for “America’s Most Talented Kid,” or whatever it’s called. And thus the sudden infestation of our TV screens of tiny, ostensibly cute little fucking buggers screaming Whitney Houston tributes until their platelet counts drop into the low ten thousands and the weaker ones discreetly expire offstage due to massive thrombocytopenia as their unclotting blood seeps out of their throats. Guess you just didn’t WANT IT ENOUGH, little Chantalle! Let’s hear it for Deron, the world’s only four-year-old chainsaw juggler! Ouch, Deron! Watch your femoral! Cleanup on soundstage four!
As hateable as these kids are (and let’s not pretend they’re unhateable just because of their youth; think Mary Kate and Ashley), they are almost certainly victims. But so what? America hates victims all the time. Sacco and Vanzetti. The Rosenbergs. Nancy Kerrigan. We hated the fuck out of all of them, not out of any provable rational ideology or reasoning, but more out of the gut notion that these people, no matter what the circumstance, were really just kind of fucking irritating. Anarchists? Commies? Figure skaters? Fuck those whiners. It’s easy to understand. But I think I might have a solution.
It’s a TV concept: “World’s Most Awful Stage Parents.” It’s got it all: reality TV, incredibly awful people, child abuse, psychological trauma, venality, self-delusion, Hollywood. This can’t fucking miss. Imagine the footage: you don’t see the poor, miserable children hoofing it around the stage as if hypnotized by a Coney Island magician, just the parents, before and after. “Corey,” the mother’s tone full of venemous sibilants, “you have to nail the glissando.” “Listen to your mother, Corey,” says the wispy-moustached dad, thinking only of long strings of zeroes written down on watermarked paper, “you don’t want to sleep in the woods again, do you, tiger?” And the child, terrorized beyond lucidity, goes out and belts a feverish version of “Sugar Walls,” hitting every other note perfectly and jerking like a damaged robot. The parents look on, razor-lipped, and when the beaten child comes backstage, Damocles’ sword falls. Loving Mom says, “Failed again. You knew what would happen. We’re shipping you off to study with nice Mr. Polanski.”
I think this could fly, big time. What else are you going to watch, footage of the war? Fuck that. Think of the children.