Mr. TV: Current Reality

I’m worried. Is ABC really designating tonight’s edition of 20/20 “Inside The Bachelor: The Stories Behind the Rose”?

I haven’t heard of anything this lame on a newsmagazine since ABC’s Primetime Live “tackled” Paula Abdul’s alleged affair with an American Idol contestant from season two. The new marching orders for these prime-time “newsmagazines” must be to focus on the topics most likely to bring in the largest audience. Obviously any real news investigation is secondary or nonexistent.

Case in point; former The Bachelor and Dancing With the Stars contestant Melissa Rycroft shouldn’t be canoodling with 20/20’s Deborah Roberts and Chris Connelly about this silliness.  And it truly bothers me that Rozlyn Papa, the villain from last season’s The Bachelor; the bachelor himself, Jake Pavelka; and Dancing’s Rycroft are now considered the new generation of star power. What is the small-screen world coming to?

With that in mind, this Sunday brings the series premiere of A&E’s Kirstie Alley’s Big Life, a nonscripted look at Alley’s ongoing battle of the bulge and her life as a single mother of two teenagers. As much as I like Alley, and I truly do, can anyone remember the last time she had a real scripted gig after her Fat Actress stint on Showtime? This is, after all, the same woman who flawlessly stepped in for Shelley Long on Cheers, winning two Emmys in the process.

With so much reality clogging the airwaves, including newsmagazines like 20/20 that have crossed the line, this is what someone as talented as Alley needs to do to stay employed. I pray she’s able to steer clear of Celebrity Fit Camp on VH1, which currently features Britney Spears’ ex, Kevin Federline, who has shed the excess weight and is getting ready to compete on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Why is this empty-calorie programming tolerated by viewers?


This kind of scheduling dreck seems to be  everywhere these days and will continue to suck up more of prime time if the networks are not careful. One bright spot in this trend is that wooden Tori Spelling’s reality work prevents her from torturing the masses with another scripted role. A Mr. TV mantra: Look hard enough and there is always some sort of silver lining.

Stepping off my programming soapbox for a minute, freshman ABC drama FlashForward, which was aiming to become the next Lost last fall, returns this week after a three-month absence. What created early buzz at the water-cooler faded quickly, but the network hopes viewers will become reacquainted courtesy of a FlashForward clips show in the Tuesday 10 p.m. hour this week, followed by two original episodes from 8-10 p.m. on Thursday.

Chances of that happening, however, are nil, and FlashForward will likely go down in television history as one of the medium’s biggest missed opportunities. It reminds me of how well ABC political drama Commander in Chief started in 2005, and how quickly it then faded to black after the network started to mess with it.

When you take a new series off the air that is still unproven, you’re bound to face a battle getting viewers back because they’re still not completely committed to the show. And part of that, of course, is they no longer trust the network. Why commit to something knowing it could be yanked off the air at any time?

Back to reality: If you like ice skating, The View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck and four-time world champion Canadian skater Kurt Browning will host the competition for the world’s greatest pro figure skaters in an ABC special this week called Thin Ice, airing Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7.

Hasselbeck, of course, got her start on CBS’ Survivor, which brings us back to the original point of this week’s column. Since when does sitting on a beach or in the jungle fighting to stay alive in a reality/competition qualify you to be a talk show co-host?  

The rules have changed, folks, and not necessarily for the better.

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