Culture Vulture: Get real with reality TV

By CLAUDE SALHANI  |  Dec. 21, 2001 at 10:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Our nation's airwaves continue to be plagued by the senseless so-called reality shows such as "Survivor" and other idiotic productions that prey on the expectations of participants seeking quick, easy money.

OK, so the first shows, or rather the first few minutes of the first shows, were somewhat entertaining. After all, it's always fun to see people make utter fools of themselves in public, let alone on national television. But after more than a year, it gets somewhat stale.

So here is a better idea: let's combine those "reality" shows with "real reality." (Didn't Fox already do that? Read on.)

Why not send all those millionaire wannabees to Afghanistan and Pakistan so they can help in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. The combined reward offered for the capture of those two men alone is a staggering $35 million! That's a heck of a lot more money than they could ever earn eating worms and scorpions, jumping from rooftops, getting dangled from giant cranes, or sleeping with rats and snakes.

(Hey, I said, isn't Fox News already doing that--with Geraldo Rivera?)

The participants would even get to be on CNN and Fox News (ahh, here we go). After all, if Geraldo can get on Fox, why not them? The former Navy

Seal from one of the earlier Survivor shows, for example, has had far better training than Geraldo, the former TV tabloid journalist, turned self-styled war correspondent for Fox.

And speaking of Geraldo, on Dec. 6, he reported that he had said the Lord's Prayer over what he called "hallowed ground ... [where] friendly fire took so many of ... our men and the mujahedeen yesterday."

Think again, that would have been hard to do.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the day's official friendly fire incident -- the killing of three Americans by errant U.S. bombs -- occurred in

Kandahar, hundreds of miles from where Rivera was reporting near Tora Bora.

Rivera, writes Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Steve Murray, blamed it on the "fog of war." He explained that "he'd confused word of the

Kandahar deaths with an incident he personally witnessed that same day in Tora Bora. He says he saw mujahedeen and other men in fatigues hit by friendly fire."

But wait. The only officially recorded incident of friendly fire casualties in Tora Bora happened three days after Rivera's report. Could it be Rivera was making it up?

"Geraldo 'fessed up to the guy, it was a mistake," Fox News spokesman Robert Zimmerman says, referring to a follow-up interview Rivera gave a reporter at the Sun. He adds, "The Baltimore Sun is trying to advance a story that was dead on arrival."

Furthermore, Geraldo, it's been reported, has said he carries a gun. That is a big nono in journalism-land. Pens, yes, cameras, yes, guns, no!

"That's a violation of the Geneva Convention," says Jim Naureckas of the New York media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. "There's a good reason why reporters there are non-combatants. They're given protection under the Geneva Convention, but as soon as we start arming them, they are combatants. He's putting everyone in danger," continued the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.

Maybe he needed the gun to follow up on his vow to kick bin Laden's head in "then bring it home and bronze it."

Murray tried to reach Geraldo for comment and was told by Fox, "Right now the man has to come home and shower. He hasn't showered in three weeks."

"So it's official," concludes Murray, "Rivera stinks. But not the way his critics mean."

Anyway, if Geraldo decides not to return to Afghanistan, the Survivor participants (back to them, now) could be filmed roaming from cave to cave, porta-cam in tow, as they combed the beehive terrorist retreat of Tora Bora.

They could also get the mad Aussie snake guy to comment the show. "Blimey mate, now don't try this at home, but we are about to enter a cave where no one has ever been in before. Right, watch out now. This is the most dangerous part. Make sure you don't step on the land mines. Oh! Look, this

Taliban is still alive." (The previous paragraph was written with an Australian accent.)

It would certainly beat Survivor "Kim P.'s fascination with condoms." (I'm not making this up.)

Besides, Afghani food certainly beats the worms, scorpions and roaches they had to endure on Survivor.

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