‘Alter Ego’ Is the Most Dystopian Reality Competition Yet
It admittedly feels lame, or lazy, to each TV season crown a freshman series “the new low for reality television.” Every year, there’s any number of similar coronations—or, I guess, condemnations. Has the ball dropped in Times Square? Then usher in the new wave of griping about the “trashiest,” “stupidest,” “most offensive,” “craziest,” or, a modern favorite, “batshit” reality show “ever!” Or at least until next year!
This isn’t a recent phenomenon, born out of desperation for the clicks, likes, and retweets that come when headlines scream in hyperbole. For over three decades now, the race to crucify the next evolution of reality TV has been as competitive as networks’ race to escalate the shows’ outrageousness. It’s been happening ever since the 1991 season of The Real World challenged viewers to stop being polite and start getting real—and networks, in return, have wondered just how far they could take that dare, bastardizing the idea of what is “real,” and certainly what is “polite,” along the way.
The criticism comes from many sides, too. It’s not just the conservative pearl-clutchers you’d expect who are parading the streets chanting, “Shame!” at whatever crass/uninspired/morally depraved distraction reality TV producers have concocted.