Altered Reality TV

If there's one thing you can count on to be a bigger surefire hit than a proven trend, it's what you get when you combine two proven trends. This is the thinking that, over the years, brought us such treasures as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Garfield car window stick-ons, and Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs breakfast cereal. It's also why there's little question the new versions of Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies which are currently in production are destined to be smash hits. After all, how could you not love the marriage of remade '60s TV shows and reality TV?

Yes it's true. CBS, the network that brought us Co-Ed Fever, Me and the Chimp, and Big Brother, is doing an updated version of The Beverly Hillbillies in which a real life family of poor mountain folks will be moved lock, stock, and moonshine barrel into a posh L.A. mansion while the cameras roll. Right, like Anna Nicole Smith didn't already do that. Meanwhile Fox, which is still trying to live down The Chevy Chase Show, is looking to follow a rich family as they uproot themselves and move to a farm. They haven't gotten the rights to the name Green Acres yet so they might have to come up with something new, like Acres of Green Fattening Our Bank Account. If they were smart, the two networks would get together and swap families. It would save money, be a natural co-promotion for the shows, and they'd have a good shot at winning the Nobel Peace Prize since no one else in the world seems to be in the mood to cooperate these days.

If these shows are successful, and based on the movie remakes of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones, and The Avengers there's no reason to think they will be, I'm sure it will pave the way to have more television shows and movies converted into reality TV. The possibilities are endless. A real family could be sent up in a space rocket during the opening episode of the new Lost in Space. Maybe they can get Lance Bass of 'N Synch to talk his family into it. After all, he's already had space training. Well, until the Russians kicked him out of their program because he couldn't cough up the $20 million for his ticket. Next, NBC will find a family that won't mind having Mom knocked off -- and reinCARnated -- so they can be the focus of the new My Mother The Car, which in these politically correct times will be renamed My Mother The Environmentally Friendly Hybrid Car. And face it, what guy in his right mind wouldn't give his right, uh, arm to be a part of an outdoors adventure camping reality series based on Deliverance? Even the auditions for that show would be worth watching. Personally I'd love to watch a steady stream of men face the camera and squeal like a pig.

If reality TV gets any more real there won't be any need to watch it, and that day may be coming sooner than you think. As you read this, ABC is in the process of filming My Life as a Sitcom. Scheduled to air in January, it's being promoted as "the Osbournes meet the Griswolds." Their first mistake is in not taking that description literally. Face it, who wouldn't stay home to watch Kelly Osbourne kick Beverly D'Angelo's butt all over Wally World and back? But that's not their plan. They're going to recruit up to nine real life families who will allow a writer and cameraman to follow them around while they act completely natural. Well, as natural as you can be with a crew of lord knows how many people trailing along behind you. At the end of the series they'll choose a winning family who will become the basis for a sitcom. When that show finally airs we'll have a great example of art imitating art imitating life. Well, it would be if it wasn't for the fact that it's doubtful there will be any art or real life to be found.

I think the networks are starting to miss the point. After all, watching celebrities like Ozzie or Liza Minnelli trying to act like good old everyday run-of-the-mill morons is one thing, but if I'm going to watch an average family -- assuming any family that would let a TV crew follow them around day after day is average -- being good old everyday run-of-the-mill morons, I'll buy a pair of binoculars and watch the next door neighbors. It will be just as entertaining, it will do a much better job of fulfilling my voyeuristic tendencies, and best of all, there won't be any station breaks, promos, or commercials to interrupt it. Plus I'll be able to watch it any time I want. Well, as long as they're home. And if I'm real lucky I'll get to see things ABC and HBO won't air. Maybe even things the Spice Channel won't show. Hey, a guy can always hope, can't he?

More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email:

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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