This past week marked the tragic end to the lives of two reality television stars. On Feb. 14, Reeva Steenkamp’s death made headlines far from her South African home after her boyfriend, famed Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, was implicated as the likely culprit. Steenkamp’s appearance on South African television show “Tropika Island of Treasure” (2013) followed soon after, with multiple memorials to its fallen star in its first episode.
And just on Sunday, country singer Mindy McCready passed away in an apparent suicide after a life battle with substance abuse, some of which was chronicled during her appearance on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” (2008).
While neither star died during the filming of their reality television show, their notoriety plays into the sensationalism of the medium. Reality TV, much like journalism, banks on the drama its contestants or main characters can bring. This is not to say that television producers are actively seeking such tragic occurrences, but they certainly can’t hurt the ratings.
Well, most of the time anyway. VH1’s would-be reality dating show “Megan Wants a Millionaire” never met its audience after a contestant’s death. The man in question, Ryan Jenkins, had been sought for questioning and later charged in the case of his wife’s murder. Subsequently, he disappeared and was then found dead in an apparent suicide in British Columbia. VH1 cancelled the show, later confirming that Jenkins had placed third. For the more sadistic readers out there, here’s the trailer to the series, which seemed like it would have been quite trash-tastic.
That’s the question. This week, as I watched an episode from the 17th season of ABC’s “The Bachelor” (2002), all I could think about is the improbability of this show doing so well. But is it on its last legs?
When “The Bachelor” premiered in 2002 with single man Alex Michel, the format of the show seemed pretty revolutionary, but was actually just more of the same in a sense. Dating shows are nothing new after all. In 1965, “The Dating Game” became one of the most popular game shows ever and recurred in various installments until 2000.
The concept of the show was simple – a girl would pick from three male suitors who she wanted to go on a date with, and the catch was that she couldn’t see them. Audiences were delighted to be in on the secret, and kept returning for more as the male companion’s antics were almost sure to make you laugh.
Fast forward about 40 years though, and the television landscape was a completely different place. MTV’s “The Real World” had debuted in 1992 and set off a thirst for more realistic television. It wasn’t enough to see people talk about their dates, you wanted to watch them go on them.
Will Ferrell will soon be joining Steve Carell on 'The Office' (Credit: MCT)
It was reported yesterday by Deadline, in an interesting bit of casting news, that Will Ferrell has signed on for a four-episode guest-starring arc on NBC’s “The Office.” Star Steve Carell, who plays branch manager Michael Scott, is leaving the hit comedy series a few episodes before the end of the season, and the producers evidently wanted some extra star power to hype Carell’s exit.
Ferrell will be playing “a branch manager who comes from the home office and is just as inappropriate as Steve Carell’s Michael Scott character.” Exact air dates are still unknown, but it is clear that Ferrell will appear in one episode past Carell’s final appearance in order to help bridge the gap between the branch manager’s exit and the search for his replacement.
The arc will reunite Ferrell and Carell, as the two previously co-starred in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” in 2004, and will also bring Ferrell back to NBC, where he started his career on “Saturday Night Live.”
About the announcement, executive producer Paul Lieberstein joked, “We found Steve Carell when he was nothing but a movie star and we turned him into a television star. We are proud to continue ‘The Office’s” tradition of discovering famous talent, and we hope that once America gets a good look at Will, they’ll see what we see, tremendous raw sexuality.”
Some have already expressed worry about this bit of stunt-casting, but if Ferrell can tone down his antics and avoid stealing the spotlight, it just might work. (And if it gives “Parks and Recreation” a ratings/exposure boost in the process? Win-win.)