The newest incarnation of the reality television craze was started, at least for this generation, by the devil (read: Bunim-Murray Productions.) Of course, B/M's groundbreaking series The Real World (and its sad, retarded sibling Road Rules) was all but forgotten once CBS's cultural phenomenon Survivor hit the airwaves last summer and, along with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, revitalized network television and brought hope to a Hollywood paralyzed with fear in the face of the upcoming WGA and SAG strikes. With news magazine shows on the decline, the networks need programming that doesn't fall under the auspices of the unions, and so reality television shows came riding in on the backs of Richard Hatch and Regis Philbin like knights on white steeds, swooping up the networks and taking them back to the castle for the dirty sex of their lives. Thus, out of that unholy union, comes the first wave of copycat reality shows, hoping to cash in on the success of Survivor: The Mole, Popstars, and of course, Temptation Island. And as the bevy of Millionaire quiz show rip-offs came and went (Greed, anyone?), the critics are loudly asserting that these shows will quickly disappear as well. Well, I'm here to say...okay, yeah, they might be right, but let's have some fun while there's still time.
Amid the protests and controversy, the affiliate outcry, the last-minute revelations, and the New York Times Op-Ed pieces comes a show with a very simple, very sleazy, and very engaging premise: will these men and women cheat on their lovers in front of the camera. That's what it comes down to as surely as COPS comes down to: "C'mon, shoot him!" And when I turn on Jon Stewart, I turn on the radio, I go into the bathroom at work, and everyone is talking about the show, something is being done right. And really, it just makes me happy to have a show that people actually talk about. The only people talking about The $treet were my friends going, "Ew. You have to watch that?"
One thing: I learned certain things about recapping a reality show when I did Road Rules, and I am determined not to trip about certain elements of reality television, so let's get them out of the way. There are going to be continuity errors. Constant. The whole thing is manipulated, so that when you see a shot of someone reacting with a stunned look to something, it's probably just a shot from when they were listening to something else and were falling asleep, giving them that squinty look. Also, the dialogue is constantly spliced together. Get used to that. This is not Reality Television, it's Reality Television Remember that. I also warn you now that I'm not going to worry about writing every "um" and "uh" as I did before. It sometimes took nine hours to get a long speech of Theo's down correctly, the hick doofus. And I took time to talk about practically every shot. Not. Going. To. Happen. (Well, it's my goal anyway, don't hold me to it.) I'm just trying to stay sane with this one, y'all. Okay? Okay. Now let's get started.