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Editorial – `Chains of Love’: reality TV’s weakest link?

Apr 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Anyone looking for a sign that television’s reality craze may be just about played out-at least in terms of ideas-need look no further than UPN’s much-talked-about “Chains of Love,” which premiered last week to decent numbers in the network’s target younger demos.
Hyped as sensationalistic and salacious, the show must have been a disappointment to those expecting to tune in to a megadose of titillation and sleaze. The premiere turned out to be more of a plodding celebration of shallowness and an embarrassing public display of man’s inhumanity to woman.
About the only thing the show proved is that one jerk can have his pick of four women and not get along with any of them. It’s not far removed from the lessons we learned last year from Fox’s “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”-especially in that ill-fated show’s excruciatingly rancorous aftermath.
The creators of these shows apparently feel they have to sacrifice good taste to create excitement. With “Chains of Love” they struck out on both counts: The show had plenty of bad taste, to be sure, but it wasn’t of the “so bad it’s good” variety. It was so bad it was just plain bad. Critics who were appalled in advance by the sleaze factor in “Chains” had it all wrong. There are so many better reasons to hate the show: The absence of suspense or entertainment value, for starters.
Still, people are watching, at least early on. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the show, even if most of those opinions are negative. It’s not exactly the water cooler hit of the season, but from UPN’s point of view it’s an improvement on whatever else the network might have available for that time slot.
Like most so-called reality shows, “Chains of Love” has little to do with reality. It’s just the latest in a series of offensive, misguided concepts the TV networks have been snatching up in their scramble to get on and stay on the bandwagon. Now comes word the far more prurient “Temptation Island” will be back for a second go-round. What’s next: “Who Wants to Remarry a Multi-Millionaire?”
As weak as the latest reality formats seem to be, don’t look for the networks to abandon ship anytime soon and turn their attention to what they’re supposed to be doing: trying to create the next “Sopranos” or “Seinfeld.” With strikes by writers and actors looming and the networks already giddy about the cheap production costs and instant ratings boosts they’ve been reaping from cheesy reality shows, we are sure to see more so-called reality, not less, in the months ahead.
It all seems a little unreal.