Tuned In

Building the Ultimate Reality Show

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The other day I got a DVD screener for The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom, a reality show (hosted by Growing Pains’ Tracey Gold) in which women who have put careers on hold or given them up to stay at home get a chance to spend a week working at their would-have-been careers.

It’s another in a line of reality shows that deal in some way with parenting and the impossibilities of work-life balance–Supernanny, Wife Swap, etc.–and that’s an interesting subject in itself if I ever get around to writing about it. But it’s also an example of something I’m seeing more and more of now: the bizarre reality hybrid show.

On the first episode of Soccer Mom, the mom in question wanted to be a fashion designer, so she gets a chance to sneak away for a week and design clothes, which are then judged by a panel. Then she has a tearful reunion with her husband and kids, and they give confessional talks about the strains of wanting to have it all.

So it’s kind of Project Runway. And it’s kind of Wife Swap. This is something you also see in the upcoming Oprah’s Big Give, where pairs of people compete to see how much charitable money they can raise for the needy. It’s kind of The Amazing Race–and it’s kind of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition–and it’s kind of Oprah. In their own ways, Carson Kressley and Tim Gunn’s self-esteem-focused makeover shows are the same: they’re kind of What Not to Wear, and they’re kind of Dr. Phil.

All of which leads me to think: we must be on our way to the creation of some kind of massive, big-box, everything-in-one reality show that will contain elements of every successful reality show on television. It would have:

* A dance competition
* A polygraph
* Fifth graders
* Washed-up celebrities
* Dating
* Makeovers
* Weight loss

What am I missing? Or should I call my agent now and pitch Stephen Baldwin’s Date and Style My Overweight Dancing Fifth Grader of Truth?