To promote a new documentary about solitary confinement, three either masochistic or fame-seeking folks are voluntarily spending a week in the hole, with video cameras streaming their every move or non-move.
They're allowed to tweet, The New York Times notes, but can't have any other contact with the outside world until Friday as part of the stunt for the National Geographic Channel, where explorations of earth's wonders apparently have given way to the study of human nature.
The trio should consider themselves lucky: at least they're being spared this week’s latest ugly head-rearing of the Reality TV hydra that is the Gosselins.
Kate, who can't dance much, apparently has helped propel "Dancing With the Stars" to No. 1 in the ratings, beating "American Idol" for the first time.
Meanwhile, Jon, who can’t do much of anything, is reportedly planning to seek custody of the divorced couple's eight children (their initial Reality TV meal ticket, via the now-canceled “Jon and Kate Plus 8”), suggesting Kate's too busy kicking up her heels to raise the kids. (He's also said to be seeking spousal support.)
In TV season that’s brought some strong new shows, the refusal of the Gosselins to gracefully dance off the stage is a reminder of the worst of Reality TV and of a public seemingly drawn to a web of Gosselin-related dramas playing out on and off the small screen.
Michael Lohan, the 49-year-old ex-con father of Lindsay, announced this week he's marrying the 27-year-old ex-tabloid scribe who Jon Gosselin reportedly stepped out with when he separated from Kate. Michael Lohan, of course, knows Jon Gosselin – he reportedly tried to entice him to fight on a celebrity boxing show and join him on a divorced dads program.
This would all be laughable, except that children seem to be victims here – pity the Gosselin brood. Lindsay Lohan, a talented actress who has battled demons, certain doesn't need any new burdens.
Some might say that dredging up all this garbage here is part of the problem. Fair enough. But the litany of nonsense is worth noting as examples of a segment of the entertainment world where bad behavior and a lack of any perceptible talent are unfairly rewarded.
It's also easy to forget that we’ve been treated to some fine, new shows this season: "The Good Wife" and "Men of a Certain Age" quickly have established themselves as strong, well-written dramas. "Modern Family" and "Community" are standout comedies. "Glee," part musical, part comedy, part melodrama, is set to return on Tuesday – perhaps giving the folks in solitary something to look forward to next week (other than trying to capitalize on their own brush with fame).
Quality shows are refreshing reminders that we don’t have to be prisoners of Reality TV.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, Miltie-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.