Reg Henry: The latest reality TV is barely worth a look

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Sum­mer­time, and the livin’ is easy — ex­cept, of course, if you are a con­tes­tant on a TV re­al­ity show that re­quires you to be na­ked.

The amaz­ing thing about re­al­ity shows is that they bear lit­tle re­la­tion to re­al­ity. This is es­pe­cially true in the shows that fea­ture nude peo­ple, which — pun alert — bare no re­la­tion to re­al­ity.

Sev­eral of these shows have lately been con­spir­ing to put cos­tume de­sign­ers out of work, in­clud­ing “Naked and Afraid,” “Dat­ing Naked” and “Buy­ing Naked.”

On “Naked and Afraid,” a man and a woman are dropped off in a wil­der­ness full of dan­ger­ous crit­ters and pricker bushes and must sur­vive as best they can. The one thing they don’t have to be afraid of is some­thing many of us fear — our pants sud­denly fall­ing off in a pub­lic set­ting. That has al­ready been ar­ranged for these con­tes­tants when they ar­rive at their des­ti­na­tion.

On “Dat­ing Naked,” cou­ples meet to go on dates where they def­i­nitely do not have to dress up for the oc­ca­sion. Some of us of a cer­tain age re­mem­ber that dat­ing was the one so­cial ac­tiv­ity in which a per­son had a chance — slim in my case — of be­com­ing na­ked be­fore the end of the eve­ning. But now they have gone and cut out the mid­dle man.

On “Buy­ing Naked,” nud­ists seek to buy houses, prob­a­bly ones with lit­tle or no ward­robe space. I con­fess that this is the one show I have not seen, so per­haps I am miss­ing some­thing, but my sympa­thies are with the poor re­al­tor. Open houses should not be so open. They are dif­fi­cult enough with­out na­ked peo­ple traips­ing through prop­er­ties on a Sun­day af­ter­noon.

One of the star­tling as­pects of the na­ked re­al­ity shows is the shock­ing ab­sence of nu­dity. Oh, there’s a na­ked butt or two, but that sight just re­minds the view­ers at home of their con­gress­men.

Mostly, though, it is a coy sort of nu­dity — tit­il­la­tion lite and about as erotic as a church pic­nic.

On “Naked and Afraid,” the con­tes­tants — driven by hun­ger-in­duced des­per­a­tion to for­get the point of the show — of­ten try to make some sort of body cov­er­ing with a stra­te­gi­cally placed palm frond here, a lit­tle bur­lap bag there.

Maybe they think that if they make prim­i­tive clothes, they can also make ru­di­men­tary credit cards and walk out of the jun­gle when the TV pro­duc­ers are not look­ing and buy a sand­wich.

Those cou­ples not so cre­ative soon suc­cumb to a strange mal­ady of blurred body parts. Women suf­fer worse, be­cause they are soon cov­ered top and bot­tom. Men are blurred in the lower al­ti­tudes only.

My best guess is that this con­di­tion is caused by heat and hu­mid­ity. Many of the scenes oc­cur in jun­gle set­tings, where the rain beats down and mists nat­u­rally de­velop on the hu­man body, ap­par­ently caus­ing a rip­ple ef­fect on the skin.

As it is hardly a good ad­ver­tise­ment for be­ing na­ked, you would think the pro­duc­ers would throw the cou­ples a tube of der­ma­to­log­i­cal cream once in a while.

My worry is that blurred-body part syn­drome is con­ta­gious. It seems to have leapt from sur­vi­vors scour­ing the jun­gle to find a lit­tle crus­ta­cean or chance ba­nana to the dat­ing scene and the hunt for ro­mance, with the com­mon fac­tor be­ing nu­dity in a hot en­vi­ron­ment.

Many Amer­i­cans are wor­ried about Ebola, but for­tu­nately, most will never con­tract that. But many do have hot show­ers. Just wait un­til the first blurred body part re­veals it­self in a full-length mir­ror — it will be a na­tion­wide panic. Ac­tu­ally, an out­break might be a bless­ing to some peo­ple, but enough about me.

Maybe this is what it will take for the na­tion to re­gain its senses and in­sist on shows where peo­ple keep their clothes on. Maybe this will fore­stall other na­ked re­al­ity shows that we all fear are in the works.

In no way should a show ti­tled “Naked Ac­coun­tants — Get­ting to the Bot­tom Line” ever be pro­duced. Such a show will only serve to de­pre­ci­ate na­tional good taste.

Like­wise, “Naked News­pa­per Jour­nal­ism — Stop the Presses, I’ve Got My Palm Frond Caught in Them,” has to be spiked. And “Naked At­tor­neys Sep­a­rated From Their Briefs” must be stopped be­fore the first gavel comes down on a blurred body part.

The na­ked truth? These shows are a di­ver­sion from the bad news of our time. The more grim things be­come, the more re­al­ity is blurred. Sum­mer­time, and the livin’ is com­pli­cated.


Reg Henry: rhenry@post-ga­zette.com or 412-263-1668.

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