If the producers of Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of Orange County or Keeping Up With the Kardashians are feeling the heat of competition, they might be surprised where it's coming from. It's not another reality show gunning for the top spot. An unlikely upstart is providing riveting entertainment for even less money and attracting even more viewers. It's the news.
After all, The Bachelor Brad Womack may have chiseled good looks, but he is just pretending to live in a spectacular mansion while dating one good-looking girl after another. Charlie Sheen LIVES it and invites cameras to watch his "winning" ways first hand. Plus, how can every day bachelorettes ever hope to compete with porn star goddesses?
Sheen's rants and irrational ramblings have been ratings gold, sure to impress even reality show mogul Mark Burnett. ABC's 20/20 interview with Sheen drew an estimated 9.3 million viewers, easily winning its 10pm time slot. Sheen boosted the ratings of CNN'S Piers Morgan Tonight to that show's highest numbers since its debut. Don't forget his all out assault on the web with a live streaming talk show, Sirius XM's newest station Tiger Blood Radio, and his conquering of social media. In less than a week Charlie Sheen attracted 2 million followers on Twitter.
Celebrity train wrecks infatuate the media. It seems like forever, but it was only months ago when Mel Gibson's meltdown held us entranced. The recorded ramblings (allegedly of Mel) toward his former girlfriend launched a criminal investigation and prompted an onslaught of talking heads to take positions (primarily against Mel) on the cable news channels and talk shows. And those phone calls: They were compelling. They were crazy. They were recorded. A television trifecta!
And, of course, there is Lindsay Lohan. While her personal story may be tragic, Lindsay is the tabloid gift that keeps on giving. If it's not her behavior and her seeming affinity for trouble, it's her choice in courtroom attire, or lack of it, which has people wondering not only "did she do it?" but also "what is she wearing?" It's like the criminal court's version of the Oscars.
Sadly, not only are reality shows taking a hit, so are legitimate stories that are not getting nearly the attention they deserve. The rebel uprising in Libya, the labor strikes in Wisconsin or the escapades at Sheen's "Sober Valley Lodge" -- which got more attention? Duh, we know who is winning. We also know who is losing. Us. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky must be looking down on us, shaking his head in bewilderment and lamenting that his satire of the television industry, Network, now looks like little more than a documentary. Yes, it's sad. Still, I can't help but wonder, if only The Donald could get Charlie, Lindsay and Mel to join the cast of The Celebrity Apprentice...