Several cartoonists addressing the same topic in their own ways:
"Gray Matters" is a relatively new strip by Stuart Carlson and Jerry Resler. It doesn't have as much Tabasco as I'd like or that you might expect from years of seeing Carlson's editorial cartoons. It has more of an "ain't it the truth?" atmosphere, but sometimes, yeah, it is the truth.
Speaking of editorial cartoonists with strips, Glenn McCoy brings a little more edge to the topic over at "The Duplex." Yes, it does seem that normalcy is becoming a barrier to fame and fortune, though blaming parents will never go out of style anyway.
Sixties two-part graffiti:
"My mother made me a homosexual."
"If I pay for the yarn, would she make one for me?"
The first couple of reality shows just sort of happened. Though I'm sure there's a definitive study on it somewhere by now, I don't know how the Loud family was recruited for the groundbreaking PBS show, "An American Family," but the prevailing story is that the producers didn't expect half of what they got.
Later reality programming started by creating odd situations to observe how people would handle them, and seems also to have not been consciously attempting to sign up extreme personalities.
Most of these were one-offs, though there were a couple of shows in which people were put into period houses and asked to live in the historical context of the time, with sequels in another period, and I suppose the first program influenced recruiting for subsequent versions.
Best one I remember was called something like "Pioneers," and was shot in South Africa in, I think, (I can find no record on it on the Intertubes) the early 80s. They took an assortment of people and put them out on the veldt to build their own cabin and otherwise fend for themselves. By the end of the series, they had not only split into two feuding groups and built a second cabin but were using their guns to threaten each other. That's entertainment!
A problem with the genre is that you can't really be surprised when attempts at a second season turn out to lack spontaneity. Even without producers recruiting for established types (and leave us not kid one another), the people who volunteer have seen the show and know their roles, whether it's on the Real World or Survivor.
The controversies behind the reality began to be more interesting than the shows themselves, as producers and contestants attempted to manipulate each other, a difficult situation that they resolved by combining their efforts to focus on blatantly defrauding their viewers by moving away from cunning and selective editing into deliberate fabrication of scenes and events.
Still, the competition for viewer numbers continues and the networks are getting less and less picky about demographics:
The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee on the not-so-brilliant masses who do not waste time sorting through the muck looking for nuggets but instead gobble up the muck itself. (And not Edison's first visit to this trough.)
As I have said before, the critical difference between the appalling entertainment in medieval marketplaces and the crap being spewed from our televisions today is that the clueless, gormless idiots eagerly surrounding those lewd puppet shows and heartless displays of freaks on the street were not called upon to do anything more than stack hay in the field or carry stones for the ongoing cathedral structure while someone with half a clue, or perhaps an entire clue, made the actual decisions by which society went forward.
It was fairly easy to distinguish the rulers from the peasants:
Today, these encrusted imbeciles vote. At least, the ones who can find their way out the door, down the street and into the booth.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton proposed that, when women got the vote, they should grandfather in all men who were already registered, but thenceforth require some kind of testing to avoid allowing nitwits of either sex to cast ballots. Unfortunately, this attractive theory was so exploited in the Jim Crowe South to fraudulently prevent blacks from voting that it has been rightfully abandoned.
Still, I think we could ask about TV viewing habits ...
And now for something completely different, thank god ...
I prefer fictional foolishness to the real thing, and the Piranha Club once more provides a genuinely foolish take on something kind of foolish to begin with. But I suppose I came of age in a subculture in which romance was atypically straightforward.
Others prefer a different approach. I remember one spring when my next-door neighbor asked if he could cut a few sprigs from our lilac bush for his wife. I said sure and he clipped a handful and then, as he scampered back home, gave me a conspiratorial wink and said, "This'll get me a piece of @ss for sure!"
I'm still not sure whether I was more appalled that he had to produce a bribe, or that she could be had for such a paltry one. But, then, what do I know about people? I'm the one who can't figure out why anybody would watch "Billy the Exterminator" or "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." (Though, by the way, I would watch a crossover of the two.)
Bud Grace struggles heroically to keep his characters as venal, foolish and ridiculous as the actual people who surround us, and has been doing a mighty fine job of it for 25 years now. You can read a write-up on the silver anniversary here.