Reality TV has spent the better part of the 21st century burning through every facet of the human experience in an attempt to find the absolute bottom of the barrel of television programming.
First were the programs about events that occur naturally in life. Weddings ("A Wedding Story"), births ("A Baby Story"), getting arrested ("Cops") and being stuck in a house with strangers beyond the point of being polite ("The Real World"). And we were OK with this.
Then came the second wave of reality shows. These were focused mostly on people with niche jobs ("American Pickers"), former celebrities trying to find love ("Flavor of Love") or the lives of non-celebrities who were only famous because their last name is the same as someone that defended OJ Simpson ("Keeping up with the Kardashians"). And we not only ate this up, but demanded more.
It was during the third wave that I had hoped we, as a nation, had found the lowest common denominator. Between "Honey Boo-Boo," "Toddlers and Tiaras" and "Shipping Wars" it seemed like there was nowhere else to go but up. Watch one episode of "Ice Goes Amish" or "Dance Moms" and tell me that humanity can't get any lower than that?
Oh, if it were only true.
Behold! The rise of the naked reality TV shows!
First on the list is from America's preeminent source of classy programming and ironic names, The Learning Channel, and their first offering to the naked programming trend, "Buying Naked."
Featuring more dutifully placed candle sticks and reflecting globes than a scene from "Austin Powers" this show follows prospective home buyers as they look for their next home among a nudist community in, of course, Florida.
According to a press release from TLC, "Buying Naked" chronicles the unexpected problems that arise from buying a house suited to nudists. "Simple tasks like cooking, cleaning and even walking pose safety threats as sharp counter corners and cramped kitchen alleyways can injure the house's inhabitants without the barrier of a basic T-shirt."
Of all the perfectly reasonable questions one would have after reading such a statement the one most prevalent in my mind is: Just how sharp are the corners in these houses? And how frail are you that the only thing standing between you and injury is the protective power of a T-shirt?
Not to be outdone by the likes of nudists arguing about kitchen space and curb appeal, the once great Discovery channel has concocted a program that sounds like it could easily have been a direct-to-DVD horror movie in the "Saw" genre: "Naked and Afraid."
Eschewing the object heavy foreground of "Buying Naked" for a bevy of blurring and a sense of fear "Naked and Afraid" takes a simple concept, take two strangers and drop them on an deserted island without so much as clothing, and then actually puts that concept on TV instead of relegating it to the dustbin of bad TV show ideas alongside "After M.A.S.H." and "Cop Rock."
It turns out that, when two strangers are naked and fighting for their very survival in a hostile environment, they just yell at each other. A lot. What I assume they are editing out are the contestants yelling at the well fed production team that is filming them while they struggle to find water.
And "contestants" is a bit of a misnomer; I'm pretty sure the only thing you win is an awkward conversation with your family after the episode airs.
Which brings us to the indecipherable pile of disconnected letters that is the SyFy channel. Straddling the reality sub-genres of "niche job" and "naked people" is "Naked Vegas," which it turns out is NOT a gritty noir about down on their luck denizens of Sin City, but rather is a show about body painting.
This is actually the only program that shows people being somewhat constructive with naked folk; at least these people are a canvas for something that, if not genuine art, requires a great deal of artistic skill. Sure, they're a canvas for a Penn & Teller routine, but that's light years ahead of being naked on an island somewhere screaming at the camera guy to just give you a bottle of water.
Now, to the smug programming executives who crafted these pieces of television mastery: Who are these programs for? Seriously? Who is flipping through their channel guide thinking "There are SO many shows about people buying houses, why can't somebody come up with a new take on wait a minute! Naked people? Buying a house! Sold!"
No one, that's who.
As of this publication these are the only three naked reality shows on TV. I urge all of you to not watch these programs. Not because they are bad, which they are, but because if they become more popular than other reality shows we will start to emulate them; and if my channel guide ever has a listing for "Naked Pawn Stars" I'm going to light my TV on fire and move to Canada.
Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.