After spending the past year with my twenty-seven year old daughter and her friends, I have been shown where to find the most hilarious moments on cable. By far, Reality Television rates at the top of the dysfunction food-chain and is by definition a panacea for the chronically bored to death. I have noticed a recurrent pattern with the numerous shows that I have watched. I can see what makes for “great” reality moments and what makes a show less than exciting.
It comes down to having a good mix of mental illnesses and personality disorders within the pool of contestants. This will always produce the unexpected at any time. Take two or three bipolars with various degrees of mood swings; not swinging at the same time. Add contestants with ADD, ADHD( poor impulse control), borderline personalities, narcissists, fragile personalities and strong antisocial personalities, then you are going to have fireworks! If you look at the dysfunction of one of the most highly watched shows, “I love New York,” you will find your dysfunction primarily in the personality of the “prize.” You add a controlling mother, who could possibly be any combination of the mental/personality disorders, then, you won’t need as many competitors who randomly “act out” in order to have the consistant weekly level of drama required for addictive-watching by millions.
Have you noticed the many random melt-downs? Have you noticed the defined arch-enemies? Have you noticed the chief manipulators and their crews? Have you noticed how many times “friends” have been “thrown under the bus” in the name of competition? If it were a psychiatric ward, not a televised competition, then there would be consequences for not only acts of violence, but for a myriad of manipulations that are associated with these disorders. What the television industry has done is to successfully put “mental patients” together in a fishbowl (in the name of competition) and let them all “do their thing.” This is proving to be a very lucrative venture.
What you do not see are the consequences of rejection that create a “downward spiral” in the personalities that really do want love or the “prize”, once they are bounced from the program. There should be on-staff clinical psychologists to assess people who are painfully expelled at the notorious “expulsion ceremonies.” Who follows these people to make sure that they don’t fall into a depression that could result in “suicidal ideation” being acted upon? Who is to keep the promiscuous bipolar, who has a history of early sexual abuse, from engaging in even more dangerous sexual behaviors once expelled? Who is going to follow-up on the young man who hates his mother and has been publically rejected, perhaps ridiculed by a “female figure” from beginning a life of psychopathic violence towards women? Who will watch out for a fledgeling “black-widow” in the making?
One thing can be said. If the producers of these shows did some digging into the pasts of the contestants, there would be no shows at all. There would always be red flags. There would be liability as prevelant as the drama. Most of the young people on the reality shows have not yet been diagnosed. They are self-medicated by booze while on set, and may be on drugs when living their regular lives. Just think about the tragic outcome of, “Megan Wants A Millionaire.” The young man to whom Megan was most physically attracted was the suspect of a “manhunt” for the alleged mutilation/murder of his wife. This story ended up in Canada, where the millionaire contestant committed suicide. If any of these contestants had been given a personality profile, there might have been a red flag by the deceased contestant’s name. What would have happened if Megan fell in love with this man and they spent a great deal of time together after filming? What if she began to exhibit the same type of behaviors that could have driven him to alleged heinous behavior? What would be the liability for the creators/producers of this reality show? It has been pulled from television, now, due to the high profile nature of this case. Only those who filmed the show (and their intimates) know who Megan chose to be “her millionaire.” A reunion show? Not a chance!
It is not enough to ask someone in their twenties if they have ever had a felony. It is not enough to have a urine-test for substances. It is not enough to ask someone if they have ever had homocidal or suicidal thoughts. They will lie, take herb/cleaners for urine drug screens, and present well. What contestant who wants love or money is going to admit to hearing voices, or having homicidal/ suicidal thoughts? What will be the scrutiny from now on upon these reckless forays into the “crazy-making” fishbowls known as “Reality Television?” Somewhere quality risk management needs to be implemented immediately; not to rob the show of its excitement but to protect the contestants from themselves and others during and after the tapings.