Back during what would approximate the mass media's Pleistocene Epoch, there existed a landscape bereft of Reality TV, even to the extent that "reality" and "TV" were considered mutually exclusive terms.
The only true reality on television in that time was called sports, which were unscripted, volatile, passion-churning, thick with heroes and antiheroes and, with notable exceptions like the NBA, endlessly watchable in both episodic and serial forms.
General Hospital might be television's longest running soap opera, but I've always thought it was Major League Baseball, which is way better and so much less predictable, if a little spit-stained.
But as the century turned, TV execs found that putting "real people" in "real-life situations" was not only potentially "interesting," but wonderfully cheap with minimalist production values and a bottomless well of available "talent."
And before long, well, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."
I wouldn't broad-brush all Reality TV into the foreground of civilization's end, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the Mayan calendar indicating the end of days was only a few years off from the advent of "Jersey Shore."
This week, TLC trotted out Reality TV's newest curiosity, something called "Hits and Mrs.," with Pete Rose and his fiance, former Playboy model Kiana Kim, trying to interest us in the story of baseball's disgraced all-time hits leader as he approaches his third marriage, this to a buxom single mom about 40 years his junior as they struggle to parent one pubescent daughter and one pre-pubescent son in Valencia, Calif.
Having been eyewitness to a wide statistical swatch of Rose's mountain of hits, not to mention his transition from Wife 1 to Wife 2, and been privileged to take graduate level courses in Professor Charles Hustle's Affable Lecture Series, I knew if there was one thing Hits and Mrs. could not do without it was statistics, and certainly Pete Rose delivers, as always.
Fumbling with my DVR, I actually heard Pete throw out the first stat before I even got the visual, and this was it: "I played in 1,972 winning games," he tells Kiana.
"There are 2,006 students in your school," he tells soon-to-be stepdaughter Cassie, 14.
"There have only been two Korean girls in Playboy, and she's one of them," he tells the home audience, nodding needlessly at Kiana, who says she didn't know who Rose was when they started dating a couple of years ago.
"But you knew Steve Garvey," Pete notes.
"Well, I knew some Dodgers," she says.
"I had twice as many hits as Steve Garvey."
That's a bit of an exaggeration, actually. Garvey had 2,599 hits, Rose 4,256, which shouldn't necessarily cast doubt on the real number of Korean girls in Playboy, though veracity volunteers on that stat are potentially numerous.
While Pete and Kiana are trying to keep Cassie from turning up on "16 And Pregnant," their focus for son Ashton is to get him away from the video games long enough to try exercising, so they enroll him in Pete's baseball camp.
"This is the worst camp ever," Ashton says candidly. "It's hot; it's tiring. I don't like baseball. It's hard to play."
Pete weathers this reality by standing as far from Ashton as possible. For the other kids, predictably, Pete has all kinds of useful advice:
"Error! You just lost the game.
"Quit makin' bad throws!
"When I was a kid, if we didn't win the game, my dad wouldn't stop to eat. 'You gotta earn that food, kid!' "
That's good, Pete. You don't sound 71 at all.
"I'll get in trouble for saying this," Cassie says, "but Pete is the same age as Grandma."
And yet the surprising thing about "Hits and Mrs." is that it's really, um, not, ummm ... terrible.
Not sayin' it's "Swamp People," but really, what is?
And I'll bet it beats the hell out of "Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch," of which I have no firsthand knowledge.
Rose remains, in this new incarnation, appealingly blunt but not abrasively defiant, not anywhere close to brooding. Kiana presents herself as a business woman and professional model, secure enough to regard Rose with the same sort of genial bewilderment evidenced by the kids.
"I wasn't attracted to him from the get-go," Kiana says.
"Then I found out what a crazy, funny personality he has."
Pete returns the compliment, as best he could.
"She was good looking, but that wasn't the reason I pursued her," he says. "It's that she was built good, too."
Why would Rose want to do a reality show?
"I didn't want to do it," he says at first, then remembers he's supposed to be promoting this thing.
Could it have anything to do with the fact that the Kardashians made $65 million in one year?
Naw.mobilehome - genecollier
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.