By Stacy Jenel Smith
In the beginning, there were "The Osbournes
." And viewers tuned in to watch their squabbles, their profanity, their familial love, and the oddball comments that issue from Dad's synapse-impaired mind. And, lo, though critics wailed about TV bottom-trolling, MTV saw that ratings were good.The Osbournes begat Anna Nicole
in all her outsized outrageousness. Viewers tuned in to E! Entertainment and saw the former Guess model stumbling about in stilettos, carrying the urn-bound remains of her late kazillionaire hubby J. Howard Marshall II -- giving him a tour of her new home. She filled her shower with whipped cream. She whined. There was gnashing of teeth throughout the land, but people watched the show anyway.
And it came to pass that Comedy Central brought forth "I'm With Busey." And audiences could see the star of stage, screen and police blotter leading comedian Adam de la Pena through an array of Busey antics -- Gary clubbing in full drag, Gary pontificating nonsensically, Gary eating oysters -- with de la Pena's follow-up jokes.
Soon we will have the multiple personality fraught Roseanne's reality show on ABC.
And so it is that now, verily, we can say unto you, what one reviewer titled the "Celebrities Is the Craziest People Sub-Genre of Programming" has reached Biblical proportions.
Let's face it, the public has been entertained by tales of eccentric stars as long as there've been eccentric stars, which is to say, forever. But now this sort of thing has become exploitation TV fodder as never before. It is sick. It is demoralizing. It is hard to turn away from, like a train wreck.
And the possibilities are endless.
How about "Nick Day and Night," a show that would capture Nick Nolte as he does what he does for as many as four days straight without sleep, unscripted, when he's really entertaining. You may recall that Nick himself has discussed shooting human growth hormone into his somach, and when he's really feeling depleted, he fills an IV bag with 13 different vitamins and minerals and drips them through a needle into his bloodstream. He also has tanks of ozone bolted to walls in rooms all over his property because he believes "bad things can't live in it. Viruses can't live in it, bacteria can't. Cancer can't. Gets more oxygen into your plasma. It's all about getting oxygen into your brain." The man regularly wears pajamas in public.
Or how about "Celestial Wisdom With Anne Heche"? She's gay, she's straight, she wrote a book in which she told us that "I was called Celestia, the reincarnation of God"...and that she was from the fourth dimension and that she was "getting messages from [her] planet every day about how to make the world a better place." When she had a breakdown and was found wandering naked near Fresno, California in 2000, Heche said, "In my mind, I became Jesus."
Of course, Michael Jackson, the erstwhile King of Pop, remains the King of celebrity strangeness. Who could forget the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, Bubbles the Chimp, the masks, the glove -- all of it? This year's Jackson TV romps, including British journalist Martin Bashir's ABC special, and "Dateline NBC's" examination of Jackson's face, gave the networks big ratings sweeps wins.
Last year, US magazine got psychiatric experts to analyze Jacko's behavior. Bellevue Hospital's Dr. Fred Covan suggested that Michael may have married Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, to gain the power of the King of Rock 'n' Roll -- somewhat analogous to "the way cannibals eat the organs of warriors they kill."
Lisa Marie was also wed to Nic Cage, who used to cultivate an out-of control image, which he clinched by eating a live cockroach on camera. He claimed to have had sex (outside of the car) at the intersection of Melrose and La Brea in Los Angeles for kicks. He memorably got on an airplane's PA system once and announced that he was the captain and the plane was losing altitude and he wasn't feeling well.
What a show that would be, as the police come to haul Nic away!
For that matter, with his nocturnal habits, outsized appetites, shooting a TV with a gun and so on -- Elvis himself would have made for quite a reality show. Thank goodness he's out of reach.