Just when I think I’ve let go of my compulsive need to win and am finally ready for the work/life balance I always talk about, I see that the media doesn’t care about that balance at all. Everything is still set up as a competition. The losers on Dancing With the Stars make the week’s headlines. Matt Damon is declared the Sexiest Man Alive (ladies, take heart: us guys are—sometimes–given unrealistic expectations by the media, too); Hollywood writers are going to the mat with producers in a winner-take-some battle that’s leaving plenty of lower echelon folks in the dust. Is it any wonder we’re all a little bit schizophrenic? Somewhere between our childhood and the start of our college years, we go from “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” to “kill or be killed,” and our American Idolized culture is in lock step with that transition.
Well, listen up, Hollywood: while you’re deciding how you want to treat your writers, you’ll probably be cranking out a bunch of new reality shows. Here’s my submission (and don’t try to steal it, or the blog police will be all over you).
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN RELAX?
Treatment for a Reality Program by Tom Stern
First round elimination occurs as one hundred contestants stand on stage holding Bluetooth-enabled Blackberries. In unison, one hundred urgent-coded rings go off in each of the contestant’s hands. Anyone taking less than thirty seconds to compulsively answer the call is eliminated. The remaining three contestants move onto the semi-finals.
Semi-final rounds include relaxation tolerance competitions, including attempts to sit quietly through an elementary school Christmas pageant without getting up to call the office, a driving-to-work simulator in which contestants get behind the wheel and are given electric shocks for every attempt at multi-tasking (eating, phoning, Books-On-Tape) and finally “Tivo Challenge,” in which a home environment is duplicated (TV room and bedroom side by side), and an actor-portrayal of a spouse gets into evening wear and goes to bed, waiting for the contestant to stop surfing Tivo and actually join them. Even the most work/life balance committed will be brought down by this conundrum.
Finalists will compete in the talent portion, which consists mainly of trying to shut the hell up for three minutes while the karaoke music of their choice plays in the background. The winner will get a five-year contract as the CEO of a company that desperately needs someone who finally has their priorities in order. (Get in line, companies.)
Copyright Tom Stern, All Rights Reserved.
Feel free to suggest other reality show ideas, but remember I can’t promise anyone a cut of the back end. I’m just not that balanced yet.