Between American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, The Singing Bee, The X Factor and America’s Kidz Got Singing, I think we’ve got it covered on pop stars. The market is oversaturated to the point where even the winners of these shows fade into obscurity, with the exception of a few standouts like Kelly Clarkson and that woman who does Weight Watchers commercials.
While we don’t need more people to sing Whitney Houston covers (including Whitney Houston herself), there are many jobs that we do need people to fill. And what better way to attract people to certain jobs than to make them the prize on a reality show. If The Bachelor has taught us anything (which hopefully it has not), it’s that people will compete for something that isn’t really a prize if it gets them on television. Given that sad fact, here are my picks for the five reality shows that could actually fill a genuine need in this country.
5. Teaching Remedial Math at Inner City Schools with the Stars
The need: U.S. students’ math scores are in the bottom quarter of countries who participated in a recent study, trailing countries like Finland, China and Estonia. The plus side to this is that if we get bad enough at math we won’t understand the statistics that tell us how far behind we are. The downside is that I’m pretty sure our country will fall apart.
The premise: Washed up celebrities team up with math teachers in inner city schools to prepare students for the New York statewide math test. Each week, the kids take a practice test, and the star whose class gets the lowest average is eliminated. Bonus: Teaching all Americans what an average is.
The prize: A chance for celebrities to rekindle the dying embers of their careers and a nation of children who understand percentages.
4. America’s Next Top Oncology Nurse
The need: The U.S. could face a shortage of 1 million nurses by 2020, with oncology being one of the hardest hit areas as the Baby Boomers age and the cigarettes smoked during 1 billion collective hours of sit-ins take their toll. One of the key reasons for the shortage is a lack of teachers to help train new nurses.
The premise: Tyra Banks answers the call by starting her own nursing school. The future nurses receive lessons on how to draw blood, perform patient evaluations and smize. At the end of each week, a nursing instructor evaluates their skills and Tyra makes them pose in a nonsensical photo shoot. The nurse with the worst photo goes home, regardless of how well she did inserting IVs.
The prize: A job making $53,000 a year with benefits, and a reality show winner who can make people better through something other than schadenfreude.
3. Project Balanced Budget
The need: The U.S. is more than $15 trillion in debt, and another trillion will be added this year. I’m sure there are a million metaphors about how far that amount of money would stretch to the moon or go around the Earth, but I’m not going to worry about finding them because I don’t think I need to explain that $15 trillion is a lot of money to people who lost their shit over Netflix prices going up $9 per month.
The premise: Members of the Joint Economic Committee work to create a balanced budget plan for 2013. Each week, they present their plan to Congress, and Congress rejects it based on stupid, ideological reasons. At the end of the show we probably won’t have a balanced budget, but through the compelling format of reality television, the average American will see the problem and vote their representative out of office.
The prize: The feeling of accomplishment that can only come with actually accomplishing something and the joy of not being a citizen of China.
2. America’s Got Plumbers
The need: The need for plumbers is expected to grow 16% between 2008 and 2018, while the up-and-coming generation has expressed less interest in learning the trades than getting college credit for coming up with clever responses to complete the protest chant, “Hey hey, ho ho…”
The premise: Homeowners compete in a trivia competition to win professional plumbing services in a show that proves that college education is great, but it won’t help when your toilet overflows and your only response is, “Turn off the water and start going down at the gas station.”
The prize: Three hours of a plumber’s time and the ability to poop at home.
1. Biggest Loser: VP Edition
The need: As much as 24-hour news channels want to pretend this is a dramatic primary, Mitt Romney is going to win the Republican nomination. Rick Perry is either drunk or has some real problems, Ron Paul’s isolationism takes all the war-mongering fun out of being Republican, and Santorum is just the worst. So let it go, everyone, it’s Romney.
But the role of vice-president is still wide open. Usually candidates look for a person that appeals to a demographic they might have trouble reaching – like moderates or the religious right. In this case, however, Romney has made it clear that he will be whatever anyone wants him to be as long as they just please give him the nomination. So the vice-presidential field is wide open, and since what Americans need right now, more than anything, is laughter, this seems like a great opportunity to give it to them.
The premise: A Real World-style show where all potential VP candidates live in a house together. No competition or testing of any kind, just a chance to see their personalities. Since, as The Onion accurately pointed out, Herman Cain knew nothing about foreign policy, but was still a serious contender for commander-in-chief until his consensual affair was revealed, it’s pretty clear that the people of this country aren’t too interested in the issues. Every week, viewers text who should be kicked out of the Biggest Loser house. Each text costs 99 cents, which is applied to the national deficit. Win-win-win.
The prize: The chance for the winner to campaign for the most mocked position in the U.S. government and for the American public to reevaluate our public figures.