Pop culture experts and head shrinkers have always said that the most popular TV shows are successful because they touch on the moods, interests, and desires of Average Joe and Average Jane.
For the most part I believe that. Think back in the day. Working class black folks in the mid '70s through mid '80s got their kicks out of The Jeffersons, because it made them feel good to see George and Weezy doing well for themselves.
When pre-teens in the '80s were feeling caught between the fading style and mannerisms of the '70s and big shoulder pads that hadn't quite caught on yet they set the parameters for "cool" by Silver Spoons.
Again, it was all about the national mood and "its" appetite. Skipping ahead in time, it's easy to understand why 24 took off on Fox, after 9/11. The national mood was happy for a show about a super spy who spent single days rescuing the oblivious masses from terrorist attacks.
So it was no huge surprise that reality TV evolved from showing seven random and extremely average 20-somethings living together on the first season of The Real World in 1992, to mindless displays of wealth and frantic pursuits of wealth in more recent years.
Tell me you haven't watched an episode (or two or three) of Cribs, the MTV show that features snarky tours of the homes of actors, jocks, and musicians. Tell me you didn't watch Fear Factor and cringe at people scarfing down roaches and cow shlongs and nearly drowning themselves for a shot at the $50,000 grand prize. And tell me you didn't watch that miserable failure on Fox back in the day, called Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?
And all that's OK, 'cause the national mood said it was OK and even fun to see how the other side lived and to watch people going all out for quick money. Maybe it gave Average Joes something to aspire to, even as they admired their favorite singer's house.
But the national mood is changing again. The economy - job losses, home foreclosures, thieving bankers, clueless auto execs, etc. - outranks terrorism on the list of things that make us wake up in a cold sweat at night.
So I wonder if lazy reality TV, the kind that just chronicles the antics of rich people, is on its last leg. It doesn't fit the current mood. Or am I wrong about that?
The Bravo network, for example, has ridden the financial voyeuristic wave for a while. It has made a killing over the past few years on franchises like Real Housewives of (Your city's high end neighborhood here).
That network's latest "reality" offering is First Class all the Way, a new show that chronicles the work of a big money travel concierge, whose job it is to fulfill the travel and vacation whims of the extremely rich, without consideration of price. Bad timing, maybe?
I'm not anti-rich. Wouldn't mind joining their ranks. But when the top news story of the day, pretty much every day, is possible economic collapse, I'm just sayin'....
Oh well, half the people at whom Bravo is aiming this show are going broke and probably won't be able to afford cable in a few months anyway. And when they stop watching and low ratings kill the show, it will be proof that the national mood, as flexible and organic as a single living being, understands irony and has a sense of humor.