July 12, 2005 --
Tomorrow at 8 p.m. on Ch. 7
IT was inevitable that reality TV would eventually slide down the same slippery slope as daytime TV.
Once reality TV stopped focusing on contests and started focusing on horrifying, low-rent families who constantly fight with each other (check!), it was inevitable that it would progress (or digress) into that other daytime TV favorite — dysfunctional teens who need to go to boot camp.
(You remember boot camp — those places that often get, er, the boot, for being so abusive to troubled kids that some of the kids have actually died!)
Welcome to "Brat Camp," ABC's new reality show where nine bratty, out-of-control, middle-class white kids are sent away by their parents who can't control them.
Right off, I say send the freaking parents to wilderness camp — they're the ones who've screwed up. These kids wouldn't be out of control in the first place if these idiots had any clue as to how to raise kids.
But it's the kids who get sent to Sagewalk, a kind of Outward Bound for the out of control.
These kids, horrible brats all, range from 14-year-old Nick, who tried to stab his twin brother, to 14-year-old Derek, who has been diagnosed with ADHD (or what my mother called ants-in-his-pants syndrome).
There's also 15-year-old Jada, a spoiled Boston brat who has dropped out of every school that she's been sent to, and 17-year-old Shawn, who steals from his own mother for drug money.
The parents, who clearly have no clue, further exploit their kids by letting their ordeal at wilderness camp be filmed — the Maury Povich/Dr. Phil school of parenting.
Anyway, the series will follow the progress of these nightmarish brats as they realize that they can't call home or, more importantly, go home.
With 40-pound packs on their backs in the freezing Oregon wilderness, they will be made to endure a 100-mile hike while making camp each night, learning to fend for themselves, and coming to grips with what they have allowed their lives to corrode into.
Their field instructors, trained in psychology and outdoor life, have taken on what they refer to as "earth names" like Stalking Cougar and Glacier.
Hey, I'd change my name to Laughing Hyena if it would keep these monsters from finding me again when they finally "graduate," although they say their names are changed to keep the kids focused on the task.
Now, I know this all sounds perfectly awful, but the whole concept, taken from a British show, is actually interesting. Watching these terrible kids develop into working humans is fascinating.
Watching them away from their over-indulgent, frightened-of-their-own-kids parents is even better.
The real problem is that if the show becomes a hit, these kids will never return to reality because they'll be further damaged by being turned into reality stars for a minute.
If the trend toward developing daytime TV topics into reality series continues, who knows what they'll think of next.