The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Off the Radar

Bogus reality show dupes newspaper readers

“Off the Radar” spotlights the strange, bizarre and interesting outside of the Hilltop. It appears every Thursday in The Mix. If you have ideas for an “Off the Radar” column, write to [email protected]

You thought it couldn’t get any worse than “The Bachelor” or “Temptation Island”, but you were wrong. You thought surely “The Anna Nicole Show” was rock bottom, but you were so very wrong.

On Aug. 15, the Los Angeles New Times, an alternative weekly paper similar to The Dallas Observer, ran a shocking story about NBC’s reality television offerings this fall.

According to the article, NBC was on the verge of announcing a show that would feature California kidnap victims Tamara Brooks and Jacque Marris, who were abducted and raped by Roy D. Ratliff this summer.

The girls were rescued and Ratliff killed after a daylong search aided by California’s recently implemented statewide Amber Alert system, which broadcasts facts about abductions on area radio stations and traffic signs.

Although their names had been released as part of the Amber Alert, media outlets covering the girls’ abduction found themselves in a sticky situation after it was learned that Ratliff had raped both girls. Most news organizations do not publish the names of rape victims.

However, the girls surprised the nation by agreeing to be interviewed by Katie Couric on NBC’s Today Show.

And, now, as New Times writer Antoine Oman reported, the network was hiring them to host a game show, one that an NBC executive quoted in the article described as “‘Survivor’ meets Hannibal Lecter.”

Their compensation? Something to the tune of 7 figures.

“I have one word for what these girls get out of this, and that’s closure,” their publicist, Lynne Balzac, told the New Times. “In fact, I’d say having your own television show is closure with a bonus, wouldn’t you?”

The show, tentatively titled “Survive This!”, would pit attractive young teenagers against recently paroled predatory sex offenders. The teens would use their survival skills, much like Brooks and Marris, to escape the chasing felons and make their way to safety at a building built to resemble a sheriff’s station.

Like many other reality shows, the producers would accept tapes from teenagers across the country that were interested in the game and a little bit of television exposure.

“Good looks definitely don’t hurt when you’re putting people on TV. And to put it bluntly, jailbait sells,” said producer Billy Slattery. “One thing you’ve got to say for Ratliff – he may have been a psycho with a death wish, but at least he had good taste in victims.”

As for the other team, the show’s producers had worked out a deal with the State of California to help ease overcrowding by releasing some multiple offenders on parole into the show’s care.

While strangely silent on what would happen to the teenage contestants if caught by the sex offenders, the show’s producers were willing to discuss how a winner would be chosen.

“We’re still debating that,” Slattery said. “Is it the most harrowing escape? Is it the contestant who escapes the most unscathed, or the one who escapes the most, well, scathed? Clothes getting ripped off would boost ratings.”

Don’t buy it? Neither did I. But apparently, the editors at the New Times did.

Almost immediately after the story appeared, the paper was inundated with phone calls and e-mails from readers who were shocked and appalled by NBC’s insensitivity.

The story was briefly picked up by “The Drudge Report”, and the New Times received inquiries from People Magazine and Hollywood Reporter.

However, later that day, NBC denied that any show was in the works.

As it turns out, Oman, who was later fired, had made up the entire story. The girls’ publicist was a phony. Amoral producer Billy Slattery didn’t exist.

Nevermind the fact that this passed the editors at the New Times, have television mores sunk so low that while America got enraged about the prospect of Survive This!, a good number bought into it.

Perhaps that was Oman’s point. The article reads like a biting farce on reality television, but if it’s read as truth, what will shock us into disbelief?

–Compiled from online sources

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