American media consumers have been so distracted by the latest round of speculation in the Gary Condit/ Chandra Levy scandal that they have overlooked quite possibly one of the most important milestones in all of television history. Yes, I am talking about FOX's newest reality series, "Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage." Drum roll, please. "Love Cruise" marks the creation of yet another melodrama starring half-clothed twentysomethings in search of quick cash and network television fame. "Big Brother" anyone?

Only this time, the suspiciously photogenic ensemble must brave the open seas for a 15-day tropical cruise in which the last standing couple takes home the prize. "Love Cruise" is the latest in an exhausting batch of so-called reality television shows that have hit the airwaves in the last year and a half. It already ranks right up there with FOX's "Temptation Island" and UPN's "Chains of Love" on the cheese scale.

Right off the bat, these "reality" shows are completely unrealistic, that's painfully obvious. NBC's "Fear Factor" is a perfect example of this irony. Sorry, but if there's no possibility of a guy plummeting to his death while crossing an iron plank from one building to another, then there really is no fear factor, is there? I've seen scarier things crawl out from the drain in my kitchen sink. And how many men have you been stuck on a deserted island or in a window-less room?

These kinds of things are exactly what prevent the programs from being "real." But frighteningly enough, it isn't this unrealistic quality that makes these shows so painful to watch. It's the fact that viewers are being proverbially bitch-slapped by network executives who think this crap is "off the hook." Let's face it, we are being force-fed these drama-fests, packaged to be seemingly legitimate glimpses into the human psyche in an attempt to keep the reality TV fad going for another 15 minutes.

And what a long 15 minutes it has been. After FOX first began airing the short-lived reality program "Boot Camp" nearly six months ago, I thought the poor ratings and awful reviews would be sufficient smoke signals to network producers that it was time to get out of the reality television genre. Instead, quality shows such as "Family Guy," a legitimately humorous, entertaining and original program suddenly go MIA and viewers get stuck watching a bunch of scared white people chase a murderer through coastal Mayberry "Murder in Small Town X."

How do these programming executives and network CEOs sleep at night? Oh that's right, on top of piles of money. I remember the days of good old-fashioned bona fide reality television such as "Court TV" and "Cops." Those were as real as one could get for a slot in prime time television. "Cops" possessed rawness absent of gloss and more importantly of outside influence that made for a gritty, hard-edged reality TV program.

Both "Court TV" and "Cops" share a major divergence from today's reality television; the folks portrayed in those programs are still lawyers, police officers or crack heads and are still living the lives that we saw on camera. I highly doubt that the kids from "Road Rules" are still skydiving with umbrella hats or swimming in a giant pools of flesh-eating piranhas. The sad reality of all this is that these new "cutting edge" reality shows could be so much better without even a portion of the effort it takes to churn out the current result.

I mean, how many seasons of "The Real World" does it take for us to realize that clean-cut Christians and ultra-liberal homosexuals are going to butt heads? And I get it, I get it, yes, attractive, 20-year-old virgins do still exist in America...there's always at least one in these totally scripted and molded groups of people. Here's a side note. If the producers of these programs are going to cast these whiny, spoiled fame seekers, than they might as well make a reality show starring me. I'm cute. I'm young. I weigh less than 130 pounds.

Why not follow me around for a day as I run the gauntlet that is college life? Audiences will get to view dramatic footage of me yelling at my landlord, getting wasted at a Lakers game and zooming in for a nice close up when I catch my boyfriend with the waitress from Hooters. Not to mention the trial that follows. Don't get me wrong, there are some strengths that reality television does possess. For one, it could teach us some very powerful lessons about racism and other imperative social issues.

If a reality series about my life is too boring, why not make one about drug addiction or homelessness? I can see it now; "Down and Out: Life That Surrounds Us" Contestants will be given cameras to document their week-long experience of being homeless on the streets of America. Viewers will get exclusive footage of these brave souls as they beg for food on street corners, sleep under freeways, are attacked by pimps and are harassed by the police. What does the winner get?

A better understanding of what it means to live in poverty and a greater appreciation of what they have. That my friends, would be true reality television.

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