There's Plenty Of Room For Nice On Reality TV

Jul 17, 2012
Originally published on July 17, 2012 9:17 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Businesspeople with a conscience like to recycle an old saying. They say they like to be doing well by doing good.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

They like to make money by helping people. It's a nice idea for a business, but not always a great formula for TV drama.

INSKEEP: The makers of "Breaking Bad" showcase another business formula - a man who's been diagnosed with cancer becomes a drug dealer to support his family. He's doing well by doing bad.

MONTAGNE: And viewers seem to think the show is very good. Almost three million people watched Sunday's fifth season premier, a strong audience for cable channel AMC.

INSKEEP: Reality TV characters have also done good business by misbehaving, though TV critic Eric Deggans has noticed one exception.

ERIC DEGGANS: The formula for reality TV success is no secret: ego and anger, plus backstabbing and sex equals train wreck entertainment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SILICON VALLEY")

DEGGANS: That's a new reality show about whiz-kid technology entrepreneurs, called Silicon Valley.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SILICON VALLEY")

DEGGANS: It's not on until later this year, but people are already complaining. Because it makes the next Mark Zuckerberg sound like a refugee from the "Real Housewives" or "Jersey Shore." And the complainers have a point.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY")

DEGGANS: That's "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice, who fights her friends almost as much as her enemies. But her backstabbing ignorance also sounds an awful lot like Jersey Shore's Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JERSEY SHORE")

DEGGANS: Snooki and Teresa aren't just garden variety reality TV knuckleheads. They're building long-term careers, developing spin offs, book deals and endorsements on the dysfunctional characters they create. Snooki has three novels, $30,000 speaking fees and a spinoff MTV series with "Jersey Shore" pal JWoww.

Giudice has three cookbooks and a stint on "Celebrity Apprentice" on her resume. That's a lot of compensation for looking like a two-faced gossip on camera. And it seems everybody else in reality TV wants a piece of that action. But there's a star who doesn't fit that mold: Mike Holmes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOLMES INSPECTION")

DEGGANS: Holmes is a TV star imported from Canada. He's a building contractor who rescues unlucky homeowners, swooping in to redo bad renovations on his HGTV series "Holmes Inspection."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOLMES INSPECTION")

DEGGANS: Some critics have questioned his knowledge or his habit of tackling massive projects to correct problems. But it's refreshing to see a reality TV personality focused on helping other people in the most realistic setting around: their homes.

Like other reality TV stars, Holmes has used fame to forge his own media empire. It includes books, TV shows, celebrity endorsements, his own home inspection service and even his own charitable foundation. Sometimes it's possible to get ahead by helping people, even on reality TV.

INSKEEP: That's Eric Deggan, the helpful TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times. You hear him on MORNING EDITION which is brought to you by this local public radio station. Glad you're joining us this morning. You can continue following the program throughout the day on social media. We're on Facebook, we're on Twitter. We're at MORNING EDITION and at nprinskeep.

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