It says a lot about our society when the goal of most “reality” programs is to embarrass and humiliate the participants or goad them into reprehensible behavior.
On competition shows, contestants are encouraged to lie, cheat, steal and do anything necessary to win the game, regardless of how low they have to stoop. “Survivor” and Howie Mandel's recent game show “Take It All,” which, thankfully, was gone after a week, are perfect examples of this.
Shows such as “Pranked” do their best to make fools of their “victims” under the guise of good, clean fun. Sorry, “Candid Camera” was fun. Today's variations are just mean-spirited.
Shows following “down-home” folks and pseudocelebrities during their “unscripted” existence are downright pathetic. Do we really need to see every segment of these people's “fascinating” lives? (Although, judging from Barbara Walters' yearly specials, the definition of “fascinating” has gotten a lot looser.)
Here's an idea: How about a hidden-camera show highlighting regular people doing something positive?
A camera crew, a likable host and, sadly, a lot of patience is all you'd need. It could be the cliched example of helping a little old lady across the street or something as trivial as returning a shopping cart to the corral on a rainy day.
Things that used to be simple courtesies, such as holding the door for the person behind you or letting a car merge in front of you on the highway, have gone the way of corded telephones.
After witnessing someone doing a good deed, the host (I'm thinking Regis Philbin — he must be bored by now) would simply walk up to that person and hand them a $1,000 bill.
Imagine if a show like this caught on. We could have people all over the country acting civilized, even if they were doing it for an ulterior motive.
But, please ... skip the inevitable celebrity version.