Summer reality shows need more “persuasive” methods to make their stars entertaining.



    A recent National Public Radio story charges that TV producers – in an effort to add drama and emotional outbursts to their “reality” shows – are subjecting contestants to sleep deprivation.
    Jay McCarroll, a past winner of “Project Runway,” said, “It makes people crazy.” An “America’s Next Top Model” contestant said the sleep deprivation made the girls “mentally insane.”
    And sleep researcher Mary Carskadon of Brown University noted, “There’s documentation that sleep deprivation has been used as torture in prisoner of war settings.”
    I don’t know about you, but for me this raises a serious ethical issue: Are TV producers using the most productive methods of torture?
    (I have some expertise in this field myself, as I do my own sleep research, usually in the form of scientific naps conducted in my La-Z-Boy recliner laboratory. I plan to publish my results sometime after I get up and have a couple cups of coffee.)
    As a TV consumer, I speak for all when I say I support sleep deprivation in the name of quality entertainment.
    But I’m afraid some of this summer’s reality shows are going to need more “persuasive” methods to make their stars entertaining.
    Case in point, Denise Richards, who won the coveted Oscar for Most Hilariously Miscast Actor of All Time award for her James Bond movie portrayal of a nuclear scientist. (She reportedly beat out the mannequin that later starred in “Lars and the Real Girl” – big mistake.)
    Her assignment this time is just as difficult. She has to play herself, which the title of the show makes clear is going to be a stretch: “Denise Richards: It’s Complicated.”
    What’s complicated? Apparently everything.
    The first episode – this is true – showed Richards going to the DMV to change her driver’s license.
    All I can say is, “Wow! No wonder the studio honchos greenlighted this project.” There’s just nothing more intrinsically interesting than watching someone take care of an errand at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
    PRODUCER: Here’s the concept – Denise Richards going about her daily life as a superstar. It’s got it all – glamour, drama. It’s must-see TV.
    NETWORK: What’s the first episode?
    PRODUCER: You’re going to love this: Denise Goes To The DMV.
    NETWORK: You mean Department of Motor Vehicles? Why?
    PRODUCER: Get this – to change her driver’s license! Incredible but true!
    Another “hot” reality show stars Lindsay Lohan’s mother, Dina, who – also absolutely true – was honored recently as among the Top 20 Long Island Mothers of Celebrities.
    Note to Long Island celebrity moms: I’m sorry, but this doesn’t speak well of you, considering that Dina Lohan’s main qualification is that daughter Lindsay hasn’t had a car accident in the past 20 minutes. (I once signed up for email alerts to let me know when Lohan had an accident, but had to cancel when my inbox kept getting clogged up.)
    To be fair, this show contains a certain element of suspense, because who knows when Lindsay might drive up half-naked and take out the left wing of the house? It could happen.
    But, unfortunately, so far it hasn’t – which means that instead of watching, I may have to do more of my sleep research.
    Write to Don Flood in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mails to dflood287@comcast.net.
    (c) 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.