February 15th, 2005

headache

Reality TV and Compassion Apparently Don't Mix

The news has hit the AP wire that a contestant in "The Contender" a new NBC reality series about boxing scheduled to start next month, committed suicide yesterday in Philadelphia.

As I read the story here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/15/business/media/15reality.html?
I couldn't help but feel sickened by the comments from the show's producers.

According to the article: "The Contender" chronicles not only the boxers' efforts to win the television tournament, which carries a prize of $1 million, but follows their personal lives, including their relationships with spouses and children.

NBC executives offered no other details about the suicide, though they said they thought it had nothing to do with events on the television show.

Now exactly how can a show that "follows their personal lives, including their relationships with spouses and children" on tape all the time, not effect someone profoundly where they might end up taking their own life?

The article went on to say: Mark Burnett, the show's executive producer, said: "Nothing changes. I'm not even going to make any edits because it's real." Mr. Burnett said that at some point, the series will make a mention of Mr. Turpin's death, probably in an onscreen message at the end of an episode.

Gee, thanks.

I'm a bit of a reality show addict. Long ago I created the "Real World" site before MTV did, I've been in books and on TV shows chatting about reality TV and I even am friends with a few of the folks who've bared all for the sake of being on a reality TV show -- and I have to say this is one of the saddest things I've come across.

The bottom line is, ratings should never trump people's lives and well-being. Ever. It makes me wish that those TV executives would take a step back and really look at why they made that show at all.
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