Thursday, January 9, 2003
While most "reality" television is a pointless waste of time for both participants and viewers, the new series "The Surreal Life" (8 p.m., WB) succeeds in taking pointlessness to a whole new level. As such, it may be the most memorable and entertaining show in a week shot through with desperate, gimmicky programming.
Combining the prison-camp claustrophobia of "Big Brother" with the has-been-in-rehab angst of "E! True Hollywood Story," "Surreal" asks (and answers) the meaningless question, "What would happen if Jerri Manthey ('Survivor'), Emmanuel Lewis ('Webster'), bankrupt rapper MC Hammer, Corey Feldman ('The Lost Boys'), Gabrielle Carteris ('Beverly Hills 90210'), Brande Roderick ('Baywatch') and Motley Crue's Vince Neil shared the same house for 10 days with complete video surveillance?" It's a bit like "Hollywood Squares" under hour arrest. Should we care? Of course not. Will we watch? We'll at least slow down to rubberneck.
I am not giving too much away to reveal that Feldman quickly becomes the most annoying ego of the bunch. The former "Goonies" star wears his treatment for substance, sex and any number of other abuses on his designer sleeve. His shallow vegetarian self-righteousness gets on everybody's nerves almost immediately. While viewers and all the participants expected Neil to become the wild man of the group, he appears both bored and bemused by the situation. He also provides the show's one poignant moment when he recalls the cancer death of his 4-year-old daughter.
My Webster's defines "surreal" as "having the intense irrational reality of a dream." "The Surreal Life" has the intense irrational reality of a publicity stunt. Given that, it should be called "The Fake Life," "The Contrived Life" or maybe just "I've Got Nothing Better Going On in My Life."
Tonight's other highlights
- After 450 episodes capturing human behavior at its finest, "Cops" looks back with "Cops: The Top 15 Moments of All Time" (7 p.m., Fox).
- Student shenanigans ensue after a blizzard shuts down a school in the 2000 comedy "Snow Day" (7 p.m., ABC).
- Murder appears on the menu on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (8 p.m., CBS).
- "Frontline" (9 p.m., PBS) examines workplace safety.
- A home video may provide the only hope of finding a missing teen on "Without A Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).
- Dr. Pratt comes to work armed and dangerous on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).
- Scheduled on "PrimeTime" (9 p.m., ABC): A mother's conviction for murder is overturned; boot camp.
Arsenio Hall is host of "Star Search" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Rachel meets the temp (Dermot Mulroney) who has kept her seat warm on "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC)... Wrestling on "WWE SmackDown!" (7 p.m., UPN) ... A dozen alumni regroup in Hawaii on "High School Reunion" (7 p.m., WB ).
J.D. mulls over his feelings for Elliot on "Scrubs" (7:30 p.m., NBC) ... Will fails as a soccer player on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC) ... Jake admits his feelings for Dylan on "Good Morning, Miami" (8:30 p.m., NBC).