Well, it's happened. It was never reasonable to think the TV networks would actually kill anyone (or even complicity allow someone to die during filming) in the course of a reality show, so, until we reach that Running Man/Gattaca/Logan's Run-type distant future, complete with hovercrafts, Soylent Green®, and spooky hologram girlfriends/sex toys, this is the end of the line when it comes to bad taste. It can't get any worse than this.
It's worse than the perversity of watching and laughing at people who seem very clearly to have suffered the very serious effects of long-term drug abuse (Maybe Ozzy and Anna Nicole come to mind?), trivializing the real suffering of the poor around the world but sending fat Americans to "survive" in some "exotic" location, and watching whiny, pampered Generation X/Y/Q/E=mc2 members, plopped into the lap of luxury, acting like spoiled, narcissistic, drunken, horny assholes (with certain exceptions, for at least one pseudocelebrity I know).
It's worse than what I thought would be the worst thing ever--MTV's horrific taste in airing the current, San Diego-based season of "The Real World"©, despite some very convincing evidence that a young woman (not a member of the cast) was raped inside the house. To air this show, to promote it and sell commercial time during its broadcast, especially if there are still legitimate questions about what happened that night, is a profound act of disrespect to the (alleged) victim.
I'm talking about "The Swan."
The premise: A bunch of "average" women are selected for every conceivable plastic surgery, put on a starvation diet, then compete against each other in a beauty pageant. There might be other challenges in there as well, I don't know. I'm sure there's a category for skill at blowing Fox executives or something.
And at this point, I could launch into a long-winded explanation of the concept, blah blah blah. Suffice it to say, you get everything you need to know in the paragraph before this one. That's it, and it's really as debased as it sounds. I watched the first couple of minutes and was nauseated enough to swear never to watch again. Watching these desperately deranged, damaged women, bandages and blood all over their faces and bodies, crying in every other shot, taught to hate themselves, broken down to the level of children psychologically for A GODDAMN TELEVISION SHOW, well, no thank you sir, one spin on that carnival ride was (erp) enough for me.
I'd like to echo a point made by Heather Havrilesky (sp?) over on salon.com the other day: Yeah, most reality television is pretty cheesy and lame, and some of it offensive, but some of it is (mostly) harmless fun and can be entertaining. But when people talk about television warping people's minds and doing real damage to societal attitudes (an argument I'm likely to tune out, but that doesn't mean it never happens), this is what they're talking about. This is as low as it gets, and if you ever wanted proof that the powers that be in some high places in television have no souls, this is it. So don't watch. Don't give them the satisfaction of tuning in because you're curious--these are entertainment industry executives; if you don't believe that controversy is created and manipulated in order to move product, well, I'd like you to meet Mel Gibson and his 350 million friends, who look a lot more like George Washington than they do Jesus. (And if you don't believe that, head over to http://www.thepassionofthechrist.com and look for the $12.99 silver nail necklaces--no joke!)