Opinion

Human kind cannot stand so much reality

I don’t get reality TV.

Oh, I understand why it’s popular with television producers and entertainment conglomerates — they get entire TV series delivered to their door without having to pay for writers or expensive studios and sets; they get to use non-union ‘actors’ willing to perform for free or next to it.

But why does anyone want to watch the result?

To see what happens when a gaggle of strangers gets marooned on a desert island?

Puh-leeze. That’s no desert island and nobody’s marooned.  This is a celluloid entertainment, remember?

At the bare minimum there’s a camera operator, a lighting technician and a sound man riding the levels on hidden microphones. I’m also willing to bet there’s a director, an assistant director and a gaggle of college dropout ‘special assistants’ clutching clipboards just off camera.

Not to mention a helicopter and crew on standby in case somebody wants fresh croissants with their coffee.

It’s a shuck, folks — and the French, bless their mercenary hearts, appear to have figured that out.  Last year the highest court in France ruled contestants in the French version of Temptation Island were entitled to contracts and employee benefits, including a 35-hour workweek, overtime ... and oh yes, a base pay rate equivalent to $1,900 per actor per day. French production company executives sobbed that they’ll have to come up with nearly $71 million in back pay.

Cry me a riviere.

The Idol franchise brought in that much in just three months on air.

But when it comes to reality TV, the money is just, well, unreal.  Consider the maximally mammaried, minimally talented reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Estimated salary for 2010: $6,000,000.

And then there’s Planet Calypso, a mineral-rich frontier on which investors around the world have been snapping up properties and leases for the past few years. One of those investors, Hollywood filmmaker/entrepreneur Jon Jacobs, recently cashed out his Planet Calypso properties for a cool $635,000 U.S.

Not bad, for an investment of a mere hundred grand.

Especially not bad when you consider that Planet Calypso doesn’t exist.

It’s an imaginary asteroid, part of an on-line game called Entropia Universe.  Jon Jacobs pocketed more than half a million real dollars by selling fictional real estate on a make-believe celestial body.

As usual, you and I are slightly behind the curve. Planet Calypso is only one of many mythical marketplaces on which on line investors are actively ‘doing business’. A marketing firm called In-Stat estimates that online players spent $7 billion last year on the purchase of non-existent property and goods.

Which brings us to the Toronto Public Library. Thanks to the introduction of an innovative project. TPL patrons with an active library card can partake of a project called the ‘Human Library’. Participants don’t take out a book, a tape or a CD; they take out a living, breathing, interacting human being.  Some of the people waiting to be ‘signed out’ (for a half-hour at a time, conversation only) include a retired police officer, a comedian, a former sex worker, a model and a person who has survived both cancer and homelessness.

The idea is to facilitate conversations between library patrons and people from other walks of life who they might not otherwise get to meet. The Human Library is an attempt to ‘travel back in time’ in effect, to an age when, as a TPL official put it, “storytelling from person to person was the only way to learn”.

Sounds like a great idea, The Human Library.

No doubt some Hollywood hotshot is figuring out how to turn it into a reality show.

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