As avid television watchers, we can assure you that we have nothing against the genre of reality TV. In fact, the reality of the situation is that we spend more hours than we would care to admit glued to the tube watching excellent programming like The Amazing Race (so best!), American Idol, and the recently wrapped Tool Academy*. And, yes, we’re loathe to admit it, but we often stay up way past our bedtimes on Wednesday nights to take in an hour of High School Reunion on TV Land once Idol is done. However, our patience for the genre wanes considerably when celebrities enter the mix, particularly those whose better days have clearly passed them by. From Celebrity Apprentices in Rehab to Dancing With Circus Stars Gone Country to the entire E! Network, it’s gotten darn near impossible to flip through the channels without stumbling upon a “star” you barely remember embarrassing themselves. And if The Wrap’s report today on the celebrity-reality-industrial complex is any indication, the trend isn’t going away anytime soon.
Although the trend of casting has-beens onto reality television shows is not exactly new, The Wrap reports that there is an increasing frenzy of agents trying to land their stars on programs like Dancing With the Stars and The Celebrity Apprentice. Lest you think that they’re just doing it for the exposure and a chance at becoming the next Mario Lopez (who springboarded himself into a lucrative hosting gig at Extra after finishing second on the 2006 incarnation of DWTS), most are doing it for the money. Lots of it.
Stars on a multi-character scripted drama can make upwards of $50,000 an episode – sometimes way upward. Yet even on the most successful reality shows, celebrity participants are limited to a “favored-nation status” fee of $200,000 for the season – with bonuses if they make it to the finals of another $100,000 or so for coming in first, second, or third. Naturally, the fee is far lower, for example, on the VH-1, Bravo, and E! shows.
While it’s not like we expect Steve Wozniak to dance his heart out on a wildly profitable show and not at least get a little taste of the action, we will say that learning about the extent of these exorbitant salaries has visions of AIG executives dancing through our heads. Especially when viewed through the context of bottom-feeding VH1 exploitation fests like Celebrity Rehab and Sober House. Unfortunately, other than not watching, we’re not exactly sure that there’s anything we can do about it, but we’re more than open to suggestions.
*And in this case, by “excellent,” we really mean “excellently trashy.”