FOX must be thanking their lucky stars that "American Idol" is back and drawing a bigger debut audience than ever before, because the "reality" show genre has been sinking at that network lately. One obvious reason is that the "reality" genre is a fad, and all fads eventually wane. Another reason, however, is the very poor taste of the programmers. There is no sensitive human story the reality-TV gurus at the FOX networks would not throw under a bus to score a ratings bonanza, and it's getting old.
The latest outrage was a 90-minute reality special called "Who's Your Daddy?" FOX made a game show out of an adopted daughter's search for her birth father. The woman was asked to guess the right birth father out of a field of eight men and earn $100,000. If one of the men who was not the father fooled the woman, he would get the money. Across America, people watched the promos, and jaws hit the floor. FOX doesn't care if people are outraged and appalled, so long as they tune in to see how the crudeness unfolds.
How crude is too crude? Bill Lamb, general manager of WDRB-TV in Louisville, Ky., didn't want to pre-judge the show, but told the Associated Press he wasn't optimistic: "I think it's just another one in a long line of tasteless FOX shows. How do you differentiate one from another anymore?" But Lamb is one of those enabling people who runs a FOX affiliate and airs this garbage even as he shakes his head at it. Only one gutsy FOX affiliate (in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.) refused to air this ghastliness. Fortunately, when the spectacle aired, it came in fourth in its time slot.
Let's look at the show's subject, an adoptee named T.J. Myers, who spent the entire special too thrilled at the prospect of a birth-parent reunion to consider the idea that she could pick the wrong "dad" and humiliate not only herself, but also her actual father. T.J.'s adoptive parents were ignored, except for a throwaway mention at the show's beginning. FOX was too busy hyping its pick-your-papa concept as "the ultimate guessing game." In the end, the few people who actually watched this outrage might find it tempting to forgive FOX's offenses considering the emotionally touching reunion of child and birth parents.