Debra J. Saunders

It was the year of the Octomom, the balloon boy and the White House party crashers. The year of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" -- minus Jon. The year Tiger Woods ran into a tree, revealing a scandal that linked him not so much to another woman as duplicates of a pouty-lipped prototype.

2009 started with Octomom, a single 33-year-old mother of six who, thanks to an unfettered fertility industry, gave birth to octuplets.

Naturally -- and "naturally" isn't a word one normally would associate with the mother -- Nadya Suleman has become a reality TV star. Suleman says that she didn't have 14 kids so that she could get on TV. But without big TV bucks, she could not support her family.

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So who will be watching Octo-TV? Why, viewers who think Suleman is unfit to have 14 children, yet for some reason want to tune in to watch. (It's time to change the channel, folks. At least Jerry Springer only exposes willing adults to public ridicule.)

2009 also was the year that reality TV wannabes discovered that there is such a thing as going too far to get on TV -- at least in the eyes of the law. On Oct. 15, Colorado parents Richard and Mayumi Heene falsely claimed that their son Falcon, 6, had floated away in a homemade balloon.

For more than an hour, cable news featured the aluminum saucer as it soared across a Rocky Mountain backdrop. Was the boy inside the balloon? Is there any way authorities can save him? Could he possibly survive the cold above 5,000 feet? Is there something wrong with me that I can't take my eyes off the TV set?

The balloon landed boy-less and Falcon came out of hiding. When the boy later told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "We did this for a show," and vomited on the "Today Show" and "Good Morning America," it became clear the helium-fueled flight was a hoax -- and that a good kid had been poorly used.

On Wednesday, the Heene parents were sentenced to jail and probation. Their most deserved punishment? They will have to live the rest of their lives being known as the parents who dreamed up the balloon-boy hoax.

It's not clear if Michaele and Tareq Salahi broke any criminal laws when they crashed President Obama's first state dinner in November.

At the time, they were trying to break into Bravo's "Real Housewives of D.C.," but their prank -- lawful or prosecutable -- upheld the law of unintended consequences: When you excel at attracting attention, it's not always wanted attention.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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