AS SEEN ON: Reality Bites

by Leslie Adkins | 4/8/09 12:59am

As I said in last week's column, reality shows have invaded the airwaves because they are easy and inexpensive to produce. It's a shame that these shows -- especially those on cable networks like MTV and VH1 -- feature such cheap and exploitative plotlines. But oh how fun they are to watch.

One such case is the Jamie Foxx-produced "From G's to Gents," which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV. The premise is actually kind of touching: Fonzworth Bentley (who used to hold umbrellas for P. Diddy) creates a gentlemen's club for "G's," where he arranges workshops to help aspiring rappers, hotheads and thugs become respectable gentlemen. Each week features various staged activities and an elimination. Needless to say, I watched the first season last summer with a dedication only my thesis deserves.

Season two proves to be even better at fleshing out the rollercoaster experience of watching street-bred men search desperately for personal edification. It's difficult not to cry when Blue, one of the contestants, discusses how he lived in homeless shelters for most of his life and would return to a shelter if he was voted off the show. Another contestant, Dirty, confesses with frustration and anger that his mother threw him in the trash when he was born.

Then there's VH1, which I affectionately refer to as MTV's bastard cousin, whose programs have reached a new level of classlessness. VH1 programs such as "Rock of Love" and "I Love Money" have proved that strippers and D-list celebrities will do just about anything for the affection of washed-up rockers and a nice lump of cash.

I've grown to love Bret Michaels' sincere but misplaced compliments to the contestants in his on-camera confessionals on "Rock of Love." I'm glad to know that C-list musicians like Michaels can grow up to be painfully maladjusted reality stars. I wince at the outrageous amount of nylon, garish makeup and drunken outbursts that are a staple of VH1 shows like "Rock of Love." I wince, yes, but I'd be a fool to turn away.

Reality television has made great leaps and bounds since the inception of programs like "The Real World" (another MTV gem). It takes an admirable amount of skill to keep us riveted by potbellies and bad dye jobs rather than gossip girls and sexy medical students.