Jewish World Review April 10, 2002 / 30 Nisan, 5762

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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New realities | "The Osbournes" premiered on MTV last month, a reality-based sitcom in which we get to spend some quality time, twenty minutes or so weekly, with Ozzy Osbourne and his wife and kids at home in Beverly Hills.

No, the former Black Sabbath singer doesn't bite the head of a bat, and I don't think he has to compete with Tommy Lee or Axl Rose in a kind of heavy metal Survivor Beverly Hills show. The high point of the premiere episode apparently involved Ozzy trying to operate a vacuum cleaner. And his wife isn't named Harriett. That would have been too weird.

All in all, it sounds like kind of a sweet show, expletives deleted. So maybe things are changing in America after all. Kinder, gentler, more patriotic, lighter on the gross-out, heavier on the loving gesture. Maybe that is the new reality, or at least the new reality based television show.

In China, however, television is taking a different turn. The Wall Street Journal informed me the other day that there is, in fact, the equivalent of SURVIVOR in China, called "Walking into Shangri-La," that "pits two teams in an endurance contest in the mountainous region of southwest China."

The producer of the show, not wishing to offend audiences and the Communist Party, which still runs the media over there, did not duplicate the cutthroat aspects of American reality shows, but instead emphasized teamwork.

But that was last year.

Now the show's creator, Chen Qiang, has decided that the show "was not cruel enough." The networks that aired the show told him, "Ratings are better if you show the darker side of human nature."

So he has some new ones in the works: "Strategy of Love," in which couples compete on a desert island. Chen has declared, "at least half of the people should be in bathing suits." See? Sooner or later these Commies all come around to our way of thinking.

Another show is "Escape to Ancient Roads," in which people race in jeeps through northern Tibet. One driver per episode gets voted off the show, and the fastest driver of the day wins a car.

And then there's "Panning for Gold." Four Chinese contestants are sent to the United States, to try to make money. The winner, apparently, is the one with the most geld at the end of the run. Whether the winner gets to STAY in America, however, the Wall Street Journal did not say.

So, on the one hand, the Chinese are starting to learn that the true value of television is not in its propaganda purposes, but in its entertainment value. And if that entertainment value can be delivered at a low cost, so much the better.

Whether than entails Communists in bikinis on desert islands competing for valuable prizes, or Ozzie Osbourne in his living room, trying to get something other than the Weather Channel on his satellite system, well, it's a win-win, isn't it?

Except for our IQ levels, of course. But we won't go there.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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03/12/02: Life in the warehouse
01/28/02: Shoes and food
01/24/02: Suspension of disbelief has nothing to do with whether we accept something as real or not
01/22/02: Save the Grand Ole Opry?
12/15/01: If you truly want to appeal to the lowest common denominator
12/11/01: KNITTING!
12/07/01: Conspiracy by the 'fat suit' lobby?
12/04/01: The future of comic books
11/15/01: Literary tips in a jar
11/12/01: The ectoplasm of a ghost economy
11/05/01: Sumner Redstone's passions
10/31/01: My irony
10/29/01: Even in wartime, America can still bring it home
10/25/01: Ad memories
10/17/01: Pathetic me
10/08/01: War time lite
10/01/01: Confessions of a sarcastic scribe
09/11/01: The end of Mom
09/07/01: Boy Loses Girl, Boy Bites Girl, Boy Gets Girl
09/05/01: Virtual elegance?
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08/15/01: A wild and crazy world!
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08/08/01: Garage Dearth!
08/06/01: That Big Clock
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07/31/01: Catchphrase history of the world
07/26/01: The Bride of Science
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07/17/01: Homogenized hegemony
07/13/01: Applying Newton's First Law of Physics to textbooks
07/10/01: The dumb and the dead

© 2001, Ian Shoales