July 11, 2001

PBS Takes a Stab
at Reality Programming

By Roy Rivenburg

Must-See TV: Ever wonder what would happen if PBS tried to duplicate the success of MTV’s ‘‘The Real World’’ and CBS’ ‘‘Survivor’’? Then tune in early next year to ‘‘Frontier House,’’ a new series in which three families spend six months living as 1880s pioneers in Montana. Using only the technology of that era (unless you count the TV and Web cameras monitoring their every move), they’ll battle ‘‘blizzards, baking sun, coyotes, hunger and more,’’ according to a press release. It might sound dull, but don’t underestimate PBS’ ability to titillate viewers. For example, in the first episode, three of the women will boil a kettle of soap fat while wearing long dresses that expose their ankles. Woo-hoo!

OK, maybe PBS needs some help. Here are several possible ratings boosters:

-- While foraging for berries, Tiffany, 21, is kidnapped by Bigfoot. A romance blossoms, but when she confesses her feelings, Sasquatch backs off, saying he ‘‘knows they will hook up eventually, but it doesn’t have to happen right away.’’
-- Tired of eating possum and prairie grass, Throckmorton and Billy sneak off to a McDonalds for hamburgers and fries. When they are caught, at first there is good-natured kidding about breaking the rules, but it quickly escalates into good-natured torture and good-natured murder.
-- Jealousy builds after Miguel wins the 1884 Montana lottery and splurges on a sport-utility Conestoga wagon, designer coonskin caps and a steam-powered Learjet.
-- The residents create primitive bumper stickers: ‘‘My other car is an actual car,’’ ‘‘My child is student of the month at home school’’ and ‘‘Don’t blame me -- I voted for Grover Cleveland.’’
-- A looming candle shortage brings rolling blackouts to the encampment.
-- Cooking with the Donner family.

Weird Publicity Stunts: To celebrate the opening of a Los Angeles veterinary clinic that performs MRIs on animals, the owners hired a ‘‘celebrity Bengal tiger’’ named Katie, who starred in ‘‘Jungle Book,’’ and actress Linda Blair of ‘‘The Exorcist.’’ We can’t figure out the connection, unless MRIs can determine whether pets are demon-possessed.

Oliver North Dakota?: Last week, we mentioned that North Dakota might rename itself in an attempt to alter the state’s image as a ‘‘frigid, treeless prairie.’’ No need. Thanks to this month’s Tatanka Festival in Jamestown, the state will soon be hailed as a ‘‘frigid, treeless prairie that just so happens to have the world’s largest concrete buffalo.’’ The cement critter stands 46 feet high and weighs 20 tons.

We Recommend an A.D. 32 Merlot: The age-old question of which wine goes best with certain meals -- red vs. white -- also extends to the Last Supper. Although scholars think Jesus poured red wine at his most famous dinner, many Catholic churches have begun using white wine for communion, a switch that has triggered a small theological dustup. The pro-white side argues that white wine doesn’t stain altar cloths and chalice napkins. Also, Catholic doctrine is vague about color, specifying only that communion wine be ‘‘natural from the fruit of the vine and not spoiled.’’

No doubt if margaritas had been served at the Last Supper, theologians would be debating whether the drinks were blended or on the rocks.

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ‘‘Arnold the Pig Was Gay! Prissy Porker From TV’s ‘Green Acres’ Exposed!’’ (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, The Springfield-Cape Girardeau Mirror, Catholic Extension magazine.

Copyright 2001 by Roy Rivenburg
Distributed by
Creators Syndicate