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Homeless - the reality TV show

Make contestants homeless and turn them loose in the city
  (+4, -7)
(+4, -7)
  [vote for,

This idea is for a reality TV show that follows previously successful people as they try to escape homelessness. The trick is to simulate an appropriate level of homelessness before beginning the game.

Remove the contestants from their normal surroundings and place them in an unfamiliar city. Confiscate their possessions, and give them clothes from real homeless people. Keep them busy for a few weeks while their physical appearance deteriorates. Then drop them off around the city and track them with hidden cameras.

The winner is the person who has best escaped homelessness, whatever that means (accumulating money or assets, landing a job, finding a place to stay, gaining the trust of regular people).

Some rules will be needed to maximise the reality levels:

No contact with family, friends, or prior acquaintances.

No access to bank accounts, gyms, clubs, or any other institutions where the contestant is a member.

No telling anyone you're a contestant (although many people would dismiss such a claim).

FishFinger, Oct 16 2008

Prior art - [sirrobin's comment] Urban_20Survivor
This is the closest idea I could find to mine while searching for prior art. [FishFinger, Oct 16 2008]

Tips for new paupers http://exiledonline...ps-for-new-paupers/
What I was reading when I thought of this idea. [FishFinger, Oct 16 2008]

//'ve had this reality TV rant before// Paris_20hilton_20reality_20show
Yes. Yes you have. [theleopard, Oct 17 2008]

//a shameful testament to the worthlessness of our culture// Automatic_20Celebrity_20Recogniser
[theleopard, Oct 17 2008]

Cleaning the Homeless Cleaning_20the_20homeless
Maybe the reality TV show would pay for this? [James Newton, Oct 17 2008]


       How about a reality T.V. show about a small guerrilla unit that infiltrates other reality T.V. shows, engaging every cast, crew member and other person responsible for propagating such crap with well aimed lethal fire sending each to the inner most circles of the eternal lake of burning sulfur, where they belong.   

       ... Of course, that's just my idea.
MikeD, Oct 16 2008

       // that's just my idea //   

       It has a great deal more merit than many ......
8th of 7, Oct 16 2008

       [MikeD], my understanding is that if your guerilla unit targeted only producers, the whole business would grind to a halt.   

       Then again, perhaps nobody would notice.
FishFinger, Oct 17 2008

       Bah - I don't really see how this is new - we've had "reality" TV for a long (and tedious) time now. All of it was all shit, and none of it was real. Any new reality TV concept can only be a derivative of a tired and unrewarding formula - the problem with "reality" tv is that by definition, it can never be real. If you want reality tv, then pay someone some money to go and make a decent documentary - at least there's some level of journalistic integrity there, not the cynical employment of "celebrities" - those artless sparkly people that appear on our TV screens (or at least on the TV screens of those who haven't yet given up television viewing in abject disgust at the contempt and disdain displayed by the tv executives, advertisers, producers for the general populace, the people who continue to lead the parade of vapidity that is "celebrity" culture - as if there was anything to "celebrate" about these people, for the sole reason that maintaining a "celebrity" stable is much, much cheaper than actually investing in anyone of any skill or general worth) and Super-Market magazines.   

       Would I care to watch hour upon hour of footage of people being cold on the streets, when I can walk outside, and see cold people on the streets for real? Where's the excitement? Where's the human experience? Where's the reality? People who live on the streets aren't successful people who've chosen to enter a jolly competition - they're people who, for reasons tragic and various (including; drug and alcohol addiction, severe mental illness, family breakup, physical and sexual abuse) have lost control of their lives. These people have real personal problems. Problems that both exacerbate themselves, and the situations that cause them - I don't know, but that doesn't sound like a programme that's going to sell too many trinkets to teenagers.   

       Back to the "real"-ness - how are people going to react when a shivering wreck of a man who comes stumbling into their shop, asking whether they have any work? Once you've imagined that situation, ask yourself how the same people would react when the individual comes in, surrounded by a 5-man camera crew, and asks the same question. TV suffers from the same problem as quantum mechanics - to observe is to participate. That's why it always tends to be shit.   

       Anyway, don't take this personally [FishFinger] - I've had this reality TV rant before, and I probably will do again - and there are probably people here rolling their eyes to the sky and thinking "Here we go again" - it's just one of those things - So a [-] from me I'm afraid, for attempting to perpetuate an evil that in my opinion needs to be allowed to crawl away and die in the corner somewhere, a shameful testament to the worthlessness of our culture.
zen_tom, Oct 17 2008

       Agreed, [zen], although it would, in principle, be possible to make a non-distorted 'reality' programme about an individual's experience of participting in a 'reality' programme such as Big Brother, because all the camera crews and interference is there anyway and an integral part of the scenario. That wouldn't stop it being crap and unwatchable though.
hippo, Oct 17 2008

       I think it is very telling that this idea is being voted against. No one wants the truth about painful reality.   

       Take a moment to read that article "Tips for new paupers"... it's good insurance for what could easily be your future.   

       I especially liked the part about how showers and the smell were a problem. I've linked to my "Cleaning the Homeless idea". Maybe the reality TV people would give the homeless people showers after so many months on the show?
James Newton, Oct 17 2008

       //People who live on the streets aren't successful people who've chosen to enter a jolly competition//   

       You hit the nail on the head [zen]. Setting aside for a moment the fact that everybody involved in reality television should be made to sit in the naughty corner, there's no 'reality' in the idea. To make a truly accurate program about the homeless you'd have to prep your prospective contestants with crippling drug addictions, severe untreated mental disorders and years of physical and mental abuse, otherwise you've just got a bunch of sane folk who smell a bit.
sambwiches, Oct 18 2008

       //TV suffers from the same problem as quantum mechanics - to observe is to participate//
Another squarely-hit nail.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Oct 18 2008

       //to observe is to participate. That's why it always tends to be shit.//   

       Well said.   

       Well, [Zen_Tom], what do you say? With [8th of 7] we're only one short of a fire team.
MikeD, Oct 18 2008

       Aren't there enough security cameras in London that you wouldn't need a camera crew?
Spacecoyote, Oct 19 2008

       Thank you, [zen_tom], for your impassioned and convoluted response. Don't worry, I know your rant isn't personal - I myself keep my old TV only to prevent the other person in my house from demanding a new one.   

       First, some clarification. Footage for the show would be obtained from hidden cameras, to ensure genuine responses to the homeless contestants.   

       I agree that reality TV can be irksome, and that a documentary would be a better way to portray the plight of homeless/poor people. But you can't deny that reality TV has been outrageously successful. It seems to be a format that appeals to many people. So hopefully a reality show about homelessness would reach more viewers than a documentary. (Also, making a documentary about homeless people wouldn't really qualify as a halfbakery idea).   

       So, on to the idea itself. [zen_tom], you said "Would I care to watch hour upon hour of footage of people being cold on the streets, when I can walk outside, and see cold people on the streets for real?" - and that's exactly the point. You might walk outside and see cold people, but most people would prefer not to see them. Most people would prefer to assume that they don't exist, or that they are homeless by choice, or that they aren't trying and therefore deserve to be homeless.   

       The reasons you give - addiction, mental illness, abuse - are certainly terrible things, and they will surely cause and perpetuate homelessness. But I think that once someone is down, society itself will tend to keep them down, and its this effect that I was hoping to tease out with this idea. If it could be shown that even normal, successful people might struggle to escape homelessness or poverty, then people would have one less excuse for seeing homeless people as less than themselves.   

       But who knows, perhaps it's actually really easy to stop being homeless or poor, and all the cold people on the streets are just being silly.
FishFinger, Oct 20 2008

       Wow, if only there were jobs in anti-TV, I'd print this page out as my CV.   

       [FishFinger] I can't deny that reality TV has been successful, but I don't think it's the format itself that makes it that way - rather, the reality TV phenomenon stands out because of its close integration with other media - where there is guaranteed tabloid coverage, simultaneous web-casts, brother-and-sister shows that offer analysis, comment and opinion - not to mention the ubiquitous "have your say" slots.   

       So, what's *really* different about reality TV is the way it's marketed - a successful reality TV show will have explicitly worded contracts with the rest of the media that limit and tightly control 3rd party usage of their 'content'. Failure to comply with the contract will both ostracise people within the show, and the media organ involved - causing almost instant media death for anyone not tied to the reality show's apron strings (I'm particularly thinking Endemol here, because they've been the most successful at the media-domination game, but it applies to other production companies as well) Since everyone 'feeds' from this teat of plenty(Papers get press releases, upping their circulation, web-sites get definite click-throughs, celebrities get exposure, feature writers get ideas, ad-men get massive brand recognition, yadda yadda etc - and it's all self-sustaining, and very, very, very cheap) nobody wants to rock the boat, and the reality-critics are flooded out of the tabloids with the clamour of all the people leaping head-first on the free-cash and exposure band-wagon.   

       Without this media scatter-gun, nobody would give a monkey's - but with it, for the duration of the series (or for as long as it can support its own level of hype) there is a concerted effort to saturate all media with some series-related story - it's hype in its purest and highest form. Quite impressive really.   

       Anyway, my point is that this "success" you mention is not anything to do with the format, it's to do with the masses of propaganda that is generated/necessary to support it. If we ever do have a Third World War, it wont employ the chilling and austere propaganda of Orwell's 1984, it'll be something very different to that, but altogether familiar nonetheless.   

       Anyway, going back to realising the concept described here - if we were going to make this series a success, we'd need to apply the same tools that make the other reality TV shows a success - a media barrage full of speculation, opinion, psychological analysis, jokes, banter, puns, sex, drama, emotion and pantomime. All of these things are going to be very difficult to drag out of the subject matter you've chosen - how do you build a long story arc out of a group of people who by circumstance are completely isolated?   

       And why does making a reality tv programme about homeless people qualify as an idea while making a documentary doesn't? Just because it isn't shiny and doesn't have celebrities doesn't mean it's had less thought applied to it.   

       Then there's the tastelessness aspect - we could spend all this time watching comfortable celebrities pretending to be cold (nobody will believe that they are really sleeping on the streets - and if they are really sleeping on the streets for the chance to win a "prize" then they're idiots) - why not extend the format into other areas so as to highlight the plight of other less fortunates? Celebrity Crack Addict, Celebrity Benefit Claimer, Celebrity Stab Victim. We could have some celebrities being sexually abused to highlight that issue, or have them live for 6 months in a country without food or safe water, collecting footage of them suffering from severe disease and malnutrition - there's another issue solved. How about having celebrities sent into combat to help support the troops. Or have them sent to Afghanistan in "I'm a celebrity terrorist, get me out of here!" in order to highlight the terrorism issues in a fun and accessible manner - a documentary would be far too difficult for most people, after-all.   

       Oh and by the way, what do any of these participants win? Anyone who claims a prize on a series devoted to pointing out the issues of the disadvantaged is going to be pilloried by the press. Which means they can only be motivated by a vapid quest for fame - which disqualifies them from my attention. If they really wanted to help homeless people, they'd just get on and do it.
zen_tom, Oct 20 2008


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