Television

Is Jeff Probst Ushering In The Television Of The New And Terrifying Economy?

Jeff Probst

Jeff Probst: If you're dying, you may have already won. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

This is Jeff Probst. You may have seen him do his thing as the host of Survivor (currently in its seventeenth season, for those of you who are keeping score), or perhaps you caught his disastrous appearance with several other reality-television hosts on the Emmy Awards.

Jeff has a new idea. He has created, and he will host, a new pilot for CBS called Live Like You're Dying, in which terminally ill people live out their last wishes. As Probst explains it, the show will take the person "on the last adventure of their life."

I tend to be fairly forgiving of reality television, for the simple reasons that people know what they're getting into by now, the stakes are pretty low, and most of the people who look petty and mean on television are petty and mean anyway. I don't feel like it rots my brain any more than any other insubstantial entertainment. I don't buy into the general "reality television = evil" line of thinking, as a general rule.

Here, I make an exception.

It's not that I doubt there are people who are terminally ill who have wishes, or that I necessarily am against trying to make them come true. If you want to, as Probst suggests, play guitar with Eric Clapton, that doesn't offend me.

But putting it on television regularly — so that every week, people are asked to tune in on a weekly basis to watch someone prepare to die — feels like, as a friend of mine put it, Terminally Ill Queen For A Day. Illness as spectacle; the ultimate in manufactured high stakes.

That same friend, incidentally, commented that it seemed like "the kind of thing you get when a country is in a depression," adding that we already have the dance contests, and that a variation on the Dionne quintuplets might be next.

And...I have to wonder whether that might just be true. Whether we are headed for ever more maudlin, ever more tear-jerking entertainment, because we cannot bear to read the news.

The Probst pilot is apparently only a gleam in the eye at this point, and it won't even go into production until January. I, for one, hope it never sees the light of day.

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