THE BLOG
07/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reality TV Dreams Up a Reality Nightmare

On June 23, Bravo TV premiers a new reality series titled NYC Prep, a TV show that chronicles the lives of a handful of New York City's elite and over-privileged teenagers. The first episode is already available in-full online.

Viewing it and the trailers left me with such a disturbing feeling. Is this really where television programming is headed? In a time of unprecedented economic turmoil when families are cutting back and most credit-dependent teens are learning the true value of a dollar (which isn't much these days, unfortunately), Bravo TV decides to debut a show that glorifies big-city opulence and debauchery? I can imagine that there are people, like myself, who find it offensive to watch teenagers spend on a whim with no consequence while the large majority of the rest of the planet struggles to makes ends meet.

Today's youth, at least those under the age of 20, have lived exclusively in a world of a free-spending, credit-worthy economy that recently came crashing down. For most of them, they've never known more difficult times where they had to cut back on their spending. Going to the mall was a weekly activity, if not more often. Splurging on dinners and event parties, with a new outfit to match, was commonplace -- life was boring without these things. NYC Prep just prolongs the illusion that this type of behavior is acceptable, for anyone, even the wealthy. By publicizing and amplifying the glamorous lifestyles of NYC's elite teenagers, Bravo erroneously continues to show other young people that leading a lifestyle of poor choices is acceptable and will become fulfilling.

Instead of text messaging their latest gossip about who "hooked up" last weekend, shouldn't these kids be studying more? Publicly educated children in other parts of the country have to work more than ten times as hard just to get through their schoolwork, jobs and apply for colleges, while the NYC Prep teens spend their weekends partying with little or no concern about getting accepted into an elite college or university (which is quite often the alma matter of an older relative). Shamefully, the exact group of young people who our society needs to set a good example -- those with opportunity, unlimited financial means, and educational resources -- are wasting their time by gossiping their way through life and promoting materialism beyond our wildest dreams. Even worse, a lot of these teens will still "win" in the end, allowing nepotism to carry them into well-paying professional careers.

As always, when we talk about kids and teenagers, the parents must be held accountable. Although, with this group, I'm not quite sure where to start. First of all, where would we find their parents? Aren't they already on reality TV shows like The Real Housewives of... (pick your city/region of lavish living conditions)? It makes sense when you think about it. The parents themselves are so consumed with their own image and status that they likely promote their children to do the same. And, forget about what the parents of the viewers think, they're too busy trying to make sense of the world and pay their bills on time. Unfortunately, these reality TV families are likely so far removed from reality (no pun intended) that they have no comprehension of the consequences of exploiting their children's' lifestyles of excess.

I would love to see some dramatic shifts in reality television programming. There are so many inspiring stories to set great examples for today's youth, even in today's tumultuous times. For example, it would be fascinating to watch a bright group of young people - from various backgrounds and means - come together to attempt to brainstorm and execute an entrepreneurial adventure. This would promote creativity and problem solving, while showing the viewing audience an example of those who take less and make more: the real American dream. I know I would watch something like this, but it's probably too "educational" for Bravo.

In a world of trying times and serious financial headache for many, reality TV execs continue to produce "reality" shows that are illusory and rooted in fantasy. It's all part of one big rumor mill; the one thing Gossip Girl has going for it is the fantasy factor. NYC Prep is just a reality nightmare.