Editors' note: Steve Publicover is a former DC resident who lives in southwestern Virginia.
Once upon a time in a galaxy right here, there was a place called the 70's, where people with really bad fashion sense and way too much hair turned on their TV's, tuned in to one of the three networks, adjusted their analog rabbit ear antennas to get the best picture, then settled down for an evening of prime time family-friendly entertainment.
Often that entertainment choice was a cute little show called The Love Boat, where week after week, Capt. Steubing, Julie, Doc, and the gang welcomed celebrity guest stars as they sailed off to exotic locations for a few days of fun, romance and sexually charged humor.
Another notable gem for the star gazers of the disco generation was Fantasy Island, where each week Mr. Roarke, played by Ricardo Montalban, and his sidekick, the diminutive Tattoo, greeted celebrity guest stars to their exotic island for a few days of fun, romance, and sexually charged humor.
Okay, it was formulaic, predicable, frequently not very funny and written at a sixth-grade level. But every week, these shows pulled a group of Hollywood stars, who were on the down side of their careers, out of mothballs and paid them scale for a week's work. Where else during the late 70's and early 80's could you see Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Sid Ceaser, Red Buttons, Debbie Reynolds, Charo, and assorted second string cast members from Happy Days, all in the same production?
Before these two shows, if you wanted to see more of your favorite movie stars from yesteryear, you'd have to read about them in The National Inquirer or some other super market rag.
The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were bad television at its best. They were like the Cheeto's of television viewing. You knew they were bad for you and left orange stains on your fingers (don't ask), but you just couldn't resist. They both survived into the mid-80's when they were rightfully cancelled due to falling ratings and the world was definitely a better place once they were gone.
So why do I long for a return of these two shows? Celebrity control. These days when somebody who used to be famous for doing something wants to jump-start their sagging career, they join the legions of nobodies who become famous for doing nothing by launching their own reality shows. There are way too many of them and it has to stop.
I did a Google search and within a few seconds, this is a list of just some of the celebrity "reality" shows that have been or are currently in production:
- Celebrity Apprentice
- Celebrity Fit Club
- Celebrity Ghost Stories
- Celebrity Rehab
- I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
- Confessions of a Teen Idol
- Dancing With the Stars
You want more? Here's a list of some celebrities that have, or have had, reality shows of their own:
- Dee Snyder
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Denise Richards
- Bret Michaels
- Gene Simmons
- Hulk Hogan
- Ed Begley Jr.
- Steven Segal
- Snoop Dog
- Kirstie Alley
- Kathy Griffin
- Joan and Melissa Rivers
You probably know of several others that I haven't mentioned, but my point is that these folks are out of control and need to be corralled and quarantined before they reach critical mass. We need to bring back some version of The Love Boat so that they can all be contained in a safe, controlled environment where they can entertain us in a limited format, just once a week by means of a carefully scripted, totally unreal situation comedy.
Think of it as a zoo where we can safely view our favorite celebs in a totally unnatural habitat. Or maybe it's more like a circus where they do tricks for our amusement and occasionally somebody gets mauled. Take your pick of metaphor. My point is that our celebrities exist to entertain us. Reality TV has given them all the control. They need to be reminded that they exist for our amusement and it's up to us to keep them in their place. We have to put them back in their cages where they can't harm anyone.
Celebrity reality shows are all the same anyway and they all suck. They go something like this: a celebrity who hasn't worked in years shows us what it's like to live their life, surrounded by a posse of "friends" who are all on their payroll and who all happen to live in the celebrity's house with a slew of assorted animals that crap all over the place.
I want to reach out to reality TV star Tori Spelling, former child actor and daughter of Aaron Spelling, who did such an awesome job containing the attention-starved citizens of Tinsel Town back in the day.
Tori, I want you to forget about all this reality TV crap. Nobody watches your shows and you don't exactly need the money. You own (or will eventually own, when your mom kicks) the rights to The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. All they need is a 21st century face lift and every celebrity in town will be beating a path to your door to be on them.
I envision something like a cross between the Love Boat and Star Trek, but with some queers this time around for flavor. Every week guest stars would beam aboard for a cruise through the stars to exotic locations for a few days of fun, romance and sexually charged humor, with a side of intergalactic danger.
Wouldn't it be great to see Melissa Rivers get sucked into a black hole? Or maybe the Jonas Brothers could be invaded by alien parasites that send them on a maniacal, homoerotic killing spree. You can work out the details, Tori. As with the original shows, the stories aren't important, as long as the celebs know their lines and somebody gets laid.
Please give it some serious thought, Tori. We're all counting on you. Your father provided a valuable public service to this country by letting us see just enough of our celebs to be entertained, without getting to know every minor detail about them. He never would have let us see Florence Henderson getting a pap smear or Charles Nelson Reilly get into a drunken brawl with Paul Lynde during a drug rehab group therapy session.
Tori, It's up to you to carry on your father's legacy and keep the world safe from celebrity over-exposure. Think of the good it will do for the children. Think of the good it will do for humanity. Think of the Neilson ratings.