News Articles

Playing with fire?

8/27/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Survivor is part drama (Richard, Survivor the First, could give Richard the Third some lessons), part game show (make that "head game" show), part peep show. It's got more parts than that, of course, but that's enough to get us thinking. And tuning in. Why did people watch in numbers too big to ignore? We like to watch. We're voyeurs at heart and TV is a voyeur's medium, putting us at a safe distance from the crash or the neighbor's window, but drawing us into the action like a moth to a flame or, more accurately last week, to a torch. We chose that analogy carefully because these shows aren't soap operas and their stars aren't actors.

With reality TV's high ratings and low production costs-and with a possible actors' strike looming-the climate is right for reality shows pushing the boundaries of good taste. Witness Court TV's decision to air confessions of violent criminals as entertainment. We're not sure yet whether it's salted peanuts or something more sinister we are being hooked on.