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Reality

October 18, 2009
New York, N.Y.

Richard Heene has been featured on two Reality TV programs. The first was called Wife Swap. The second was Runaway Weather Balloon. Wife Swap is what we might call "real" Reality TV, in that it was created by a production company and purchased by a television network, and the world was alerted to its broadcast. Runaway Weather Balloon, however, was "fake" Reality TV, in that it wasn't unauthorized by anyone actually connected with TV. Richard Heene thought it up all by himself, and then it was sprung on us suddenly and without warning.

But here's what's weird:

Real Reality TV programs like Wife Swap are almost entirely fake. They're based on situations — wives of different temperments swap households, for example — that are as craftily contrived as sitcoms. Real Reality TV programs are often scripted, manipulated, re-shot, and edited into something not real at all. If real Reality TV were truly real, it would be unwatchable. It would be too real.

But a fake Reality TV program like Runaway Weather Balloon is actually quite real. For the millions of people watching the real-time footage of the weather balloon really flying the through the air with a six-year-old boy trapped inside, the emotional investment was very real, and we shuddered whenever it tipped, afraid to see the boy actually fall out to his death.

And now it looks as if Richard Heene — a fake actor pretending to be a real scientist — staged the fake Reality TV program Runaway Weather Balloon as a publicity stunt for a real Reality TV program, which actually makes him the star of a third Reality TV program (playing right now) that's more real than real Reality TV or fake Reality TV. I think it's called Idiot Dad.


Comments:

The real question is did the guy think of putting a transponder in it so other air traffic wouldn't hit it...

— P1L0T, Sun, 18 Oct 2009 19:41:50 -0400

Anyone who watches Real Reality TV should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be manipulated. What an incredible waste of time.

For those caught up in the fake Reality TV...I hope Richard Heene pays an appropriate price for wasting my time.

— Bill, Sun, 18 Oct 2009 20:39:52 -0400

"Runaway Weather Balloon, however, was "fake" Reality TV, in that it wasn't unauthorized by anyone actually connected with TV."

Surely that's because no one actually connected with TV knew about it so no one could unauthorize it.

"Anyone who watches Real Reality TV should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be manipulated. What an incredible waste of time."

Same for anyone who watches any other kind of TV. Regardless of what anyone says about internet addiction, anyone actually connected with the internet has better things to do than watch TV.

— Watching the watchers, Mon, 19 Oct 2009 02:16:11 -0400

OR Dad in pin stripes.

— Dean, Mon, 19 Oct 2009 13:00:16 -0400

I still say there is good TV and bad TV. Good TV can be very good indeed. It's just that there's so very much that is so very bad.

Were you *trying* to make my brain hurt? Are you sure you didn't drop a stitch there, with that double negative?

"Runaway Weather Balloon, however, was "fake" Reality TV, in that it wasn't unauthorized by anyone actually connected with TV."

BobW, Mon, 19 Oct 2009 14:42:53 -0400

The "wasn't" in there was unintentional (or perhaps subconsciously devious). — Charles

"Were you *trying* to make my brain hurt?"

Well that depends on whether wasn't wasn't unintentional or not. Now we know it was.

See, the problem with English is that it looks like COBOL, substituting words for common symbols without making their meanings any clearer. Oops, wrong topic.

— Watching the watchers, Mon, 19 Oct 2009 22:27:35 -0400

Objectively, I think taking his children into storm-chasing situations -- regardless of his evident love for them -- shows reckless bad judgment and should be taken into acct by local Children's Services.

austin avrashow, Thu, 22 Oct 2009 19:58:45 -0400

Charles,

As a pilot (helicopter and airplane, 22+ years now) it was pretty obvious to me the balloon was empty; not enough tension on the skin to indicate it was carrying any meaningful load. However, Heene is definitely a con man and sensationalist, I know the personality type from experience.

I'm all for TV shows with whacky, off-the-wall science experiments in the name of fun and even profit. (Mythbusters comes to mind.) But Heene should at least have come by it honestly, on the merits of whatever he wanted to produce, not the media frenzy from making everyone believe his kid's life was in jeopardy.

John Nagle, Mon, 2 Nov 2009 22:05:19 -0500


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