The producers of reality television want you to know they are as upset as you are about the post-apocalypse circus they've unleashed on America and they are really trying to do something about it.
Who would have guessed, you select people for stardom based on their borderline disorders, reward them with more attention and airtime for unhinged behavior — and out of nowhere some of them start acting not funny crazy but really truly crazy?
Well, after one reality contestant broke into the White House and another, oh, just, murdered his ex-wife, the LA Times reports that reality moguls are making the expected harumphs about better screening processes, higher standards, guidelines...you know all those things you harumph about when you want to make it look like you are going to change everything when you really have no idea what you're going to do.
Furrowing their brows, the producers quoted express particular concern that the case of Ryan Jenkins, that two-time reality contestant who murdered his ex-wife and then fled the country was
the game-changer for everybody," said Michael Hirschorn, a former VH1 executive who helped develop such genre-expanding shows as "I Love New York" and now runs the independent production house Ish Entertainment.
Hirschorn said dating shows and programs that feature contestants dealing with difficult psychological problems, such as drug addiction, are now being approached more warily. More broadly, a rollback is already underway across the genre, he said.
"Vetting processes are going to get a lot stricter," he said. "The background checks are becoming more and more rigorous. Clearly, each time there's a slip-up, the bar goes higher."
Since the Jenkins case, television industry requests for background screenings have gone up 25% at Control Risks, an international risk consulting firm with offices in Los Angeles, according to Elaine Carey, national director of investigations.
The problem is of course, shows like Real Housewives and Rock of Love are built around bringing around bringing in people who are completely batty on a good day and poking and prodding them to see what jaw-dropping heights of insanity they can climb. It's all well and good to say we're looking for people who are just tantrum-crazy, tearing apart a Rock of Love bus crazy, betraying their best friend crazy, but certainly not killing their ex-wife crazy. That's where we draw the line.
Yes, it's easy to say, but we'd like to see the screening process that will let through the certifiably nutso but raise the drawbridge on the criminally psychotic. And until VH1 starts running reality shows about America's Favorite Tea-Cozy Knitters, our national debate on just how insane do we want our TV stars to be is likely to rage on.