Friday, March 10, 2006

Reality TV Might Have Gone Too Far This Time


The once black Sparks family

Reality TV was supposed to be one of those trends that fizzled out just as fast as it appeared. Unfortunately, it hasn't. The longer it stays the more ridiculous the shows become. FX's new show Black.White. (Wednesdays 10 PM E.T.) takes realtiy TV's eccentricities a step further by trying to examine the differences between races.

The program's premises is a novel one. Find two families: one black, one white. Hire Hollywood's best make up artists. Transform said families into the opposite race. Let families loose in an upscale California neighborhood. At the end of the day have the families live in the same house. And voila reality TV at its finest.

Yet, Black.White. (by the way those periods are actually part of the title) seems to fall short of its lofty intentions. First, is the issue of the families that were recruited to participate in this artificial environment. FX's official website describes the Wurgels as a white liberal family from California and the Sparks (the black family) as a middle class family from Georgia. These mundane descriptions are spot on with just how boring the participants truly are. The closest thing to a real character is the Wurgel's patriarch, Bruno. Having the aura of a closest racist, Bruno is wholly aloof of the whole concept of racism and is almost dissapointed when no blatant acts of racism are committed against him. By the end it is apparent that Brunco can almost believe that racism doesn't even exist. This bullheadedness combined with his ignorance are only slightly entertaining.

The second problem with the show is that it is a poor measurement of the racial inequalities that exist within America. Though race is an important topic in the discussion of American culture, its portrayal on Black.White. does not even remotely touch on the most important issues. For instance, in one episode the Wurgels traverse swanky Los Angeles suburbs looking for jobs at high end retailers (which they are denied). This is about as far as the show goes to examine racism as most of the other episodes follow the same idea of the families trying to buy products or receive commonplace services and examining the results. Racism in America roots itself deeper than not receiving preferential treatment in a store or the ability to work for a trendy retailer. It involves more important things such as getting a college education, getting a mortgage, escaping poverty, getting adequate medical treatment, etc, etc. To trivialize such an important issue by only focusing solely on the participants consumption of goods and services is ludicrous, especially when much more complex problems could (and should) have been confronted.

Overall, as a show Black.White. lacks the characters and situations that make reality TV entertaining. Since the show is based on such an ambitious idea, it should have taken the issue of racism and examined it in greater depth. Examining racism in greater depth would have provided an eye opening experience for viewers. But, even though Black.White. lacks any true substance or morally redeeming social value, it's at the least an attempt to deviate from traditional reality TV.

Articles:
Color Commentary - FX's Creepy New Race-Swap Show
Black.White.-Television Review
Black.White. Official Site

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