Wednesday, December 22, 2004

WHAT WOULD O'REILLY DO? Congratulations are due to News Corp. and its Fox Television Entertainment Group. Just look how far they've come:

Here's Fox then (February 25, 2000):

Sandy Grushow, the chairman of the Fox Television Entertainment Group who canceled "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?" last week after it blew up in Fox's face...said he wanted to avoid the kind of "exploitative material" that resulted in the multimillionaire show, which was transformed in a matter of days last week from a ratings phenomenon to a public relations fiasco.

He said that Fox's reliance in recent years on this kind of programs had only served as a stopgap to cover for a dwindling stream of hit series.

"They're gone; they're over," Mr. Grushow said of the "reality specials," which came under a department of Fox that has been led by Mike Darnell, an executive who gained a reputation throughout the television industry for finding subjects that proved irresistible to viewers and anathema to critics.


He said that Fox needed to undergo a "paradigm shift," adding: "That's why in a perverse way I'm glad this happened. Because it sends a loud and clear message that we've got to get away from these exploitative reality specials."

Mr. Grushow defined the specials as "anything that is exploitative, that reeks of desperation, anything that's merely out for ratings."

Still, Mr. Grushow emphasized, "It's going to be different from now on, different as originally planned."

That means, he said, dealing with prominent creators of quality programs...

"Someday people will stop talking about this," Mr. Grushow said. "I hope they'll judge us by where we are a year from now, rather than from where we are now."
Five years later, just how much progress has been made?
Plans to air a television game show in which an adopted woman picks out her father from a panel of impostors have thousands of people deluging Fox TV with letters and e-mails to get the show shelved.

The "Who's Your Daddy?" show, in which a young woman given up for adoption as a child gets a $100,000 (52,000 pound) prize for picking out her biological father from a line-up, is the latest in America's obsession with reality TV programming.

News of the show sparked both a grass-roots campaign among adoptive parents and protests from national adoption organizations who called the idea offensive, voyeuristic and exploitative. Six episodes have been filmed but so far only one has been scheduled for broadcast, on Jan. 3.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.