As one of the deprived few who managed not to watch a single minute of the voyeuristic TV hit, "Survivor," I nonetheless was kept informed of its progress by media falling all over themselves to report who ate rats, who was banished from the island, and ongoing speculation as to who would be the winner of a million bucks, fame, endorsements, etc., etc.
"Reality TV," it was dubbed (yeah, sure, how much realism can there be when every participant knows his/her every move is being recorded by a camera crew, to be watched by millions?).
The day I read about the "Survivor" winner in the morning newspaper, I had my own little dose of reality when I stopped at a local convenience store, filled my car with gas, went inside to pay, and started back to my car. What should I behold but a lovely teenage girl at the pump on the other side of my car, nonchalantly filling her tank while a lit cigarette dangled between her fingers, only a few inches from the nozzle spouting gasoline (which, I have read, but was not anxious to personally verify, has more explosive force, pound for pound, than dynamite). This, despite "No Smoking" signs plastered all over the place. Summoning all the courage I could muster, expecting any second to be whoomped skyward like a Scud missile, I gingerly edged into my car and zoomed out of there. When I drove by later in the day, the store had not been reduced to a smoldering, black hulk, so I assumed she had escaped immolation and that we were "survivors" of her foolhardiness.
All of which set me to musing: If they wanna come up with a real "reality TV" series, why not one called "Farmer"?
They could take a gaggle of city folks, plop 'em down on farms in the Mississippi Delta, and give 'em a year to cope with the myriad of challenges that the average producer faces as a matter of course.
Have a camera crew follow the would-be Farmer Browns as they make the rounds of lenders, sweating out arrangements for financing; as they deal with drought, hail, and other adverse weather; as they worry about (in many areas) a declining water table and ever-costlier irrigation; as they do battle with a host of bugs, diseases, and weeds; as they sweat to keep equipment operational; as they compile the multitude of records required by the EPA, OSHA, etc., and try not to run afoul of the ever-proliferating regulations; as they agonize over how to sell crops in a world market where prices for everything are below the cost of production, demand seems in a terminal slump but input costs move inexorably upward, and potential buyers may refuse crops if they're from genetically modified plants; and as they wonder, should they die, whether taxes and debt will force their family to sell the farm.
Those who made it through the year without going bankrupt, calling it quits and bringing in the auctioneers, or resorting to suicide would become finalists and from that pool, the one with the most (or any) profit would be declared the winner.
Hey, it's got it all: drama, conflict, tension, suspense, with innumerable opportunities over the course of the series for the participants to demonstrate their ingenuity, determination, and survival skills. Maybe they could get that ultimate authority on things agricultural, Meryl Streep, to serve as the show's host.
And what more fitting prize could there be for the eventual survivor than that he/she win the privilege of doing it again for another year.