Classic Books Meet Reality Television


Brides at their most Tokyo-stomping -Zillaness... Spoiled heiresses sobbing over their birthday Mercedes' in the soul-crushing wrong shade of red... Betrayal and bug-eating... Dashed hopes and dancin' shoes... This is reality for today's television network programming.

But I got to thinking-- if reality television had been popular when some of our greatest fiction classics were written, how would those tales have transferred to our TV screens-- reality-style?

Well, I imagine it might go something like this...

  • Fagin's Den. Get tips on starting your own street-urchin-run, pick-pocketing business, and compete to see who Oliver Twist's Fagin will choose as his partner for the next franchise operation.

  • Big Brother: The 1984 Edition. Seven Gen Y-ers are locked in the Oceania Apartments, and compete to create the most clever government propaganda in Newspeak. Figure out which roommates secretly belong to the Inner Party, the Outer Party and who's a Prole-- all the time, trying to avoid suspicion from the Thought Police cameramen.

  • Last Mansion Standing. Poe's Ushers (Roderick and Madeline) compete against Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff and Catherine, and the House of Seven Gables' Pyncheons to see which ancestral home decays to the ground, symbollically, first.

  • Gulliver: Lilliput. This popular survival show follows hero-adventurer Gulliver, as he fights against a variety of challenges, to eventually either be crowned king of the Lilliputian society, or exiled from the country. The show's motto this season? "Lilliput Up or Shut Up." Next season, prepare yourself for Gulliver: Brobdingnag.

  • Whose Wine Was it Anyway? Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse characters trade improvisational comedic quips over dinner to see who can be more clever. Contestants are voted off the table by a live studio audience.

  • Around the World in 16 Weeks. This clever race show takes modern contestants and challenges them to get around the globe using only Victorian forms of transportation during the course of one TV season. Steam trains, hot air balloons, unicycles and crank cars are just a few of the exciting options. Winner gets 20,000 pounds and a copy of the Jules Verne novel.

  • Hitching with the Havishams. Watch as Charles Dickens' Miss Havisham plans the wedding that's never going to happen. See her isolate new bridesmaids each week, take on caterers who don't appreciate vague event deadlines, and make seamstresses cry as they can no longer patch her crumbling wedding dress.

That's about all I could come up with for today. So tell me, folks-- what must-see classic book TV did I miss?

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20 comments:

Da Old Man said...

Fear of Green Eggs and Ham Factor: Host Sam Iam, feeds contestants what appears to be foods that are tainted with salmonella under the most dire circumstances. Will they eat them in a tree, will they eat them off his knee?

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man-- OHHH, you're GOOOOOOD! :)

Shawn said...

The Real (Under)World: 8 people, picked to live in a house. On a weekly basis, one castmember is voted off, with the television audience deciding which ring of Dante's Inferno they'll spend eternity.

I would totally watch Whose Wine is it Anyway.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shawn- HA! Very nice, indeed.

And yes, I think I'd enjoy "Whose Wine is it Anyway?" too...

"Who will it be tonight, Aunt Agatha Wooster who chews broken bottles... or...?"

golublog said...

This is great. Though I feel most novels are too classy for likes reality tv show.

Jenn Thorson said...

Golublog- I agree with you on that. As a big fan of reading, I just couldn't help but tweak the nose of reality TV a bit. :)

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

How about Vonnegut's Breakfast of Bong-Hitting Champions?

Jessie said...

Extreme Makeover with Scarlett and Mammy

We take one young belle,with bad teeth,and the shocking waist size or 23 inches, corset her,offer her three dress choices,ranging from Velvet curtain classic,to red taffeta scandal.
Sponsored by the radish companies

This old BCabin with Uncle Tom

Love thiss,ssooo clever

Jessie said...

Oh and i cant forget
Whose wine is it anyway?that would definately be Tivoed

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- It certainly would explain a lot about reality TV.

Jessie- Heh-- good ones! And an excellent makeover program! The innovative tips on curtains to dress alone will be a hit for these tough economic times.

freetheunicorns said...

How about a new dating game, Lolita: To Date or Go To Jail. Contestants ask the girls questions and determine if they're old enough to date. If they someone who isn't, lock'em up.

Jenn Thorson said...

FreeTheUnicorns- That one could prove to be quite a popular show-- great potential there for as BIG audience.

Perhaps they can recruit the contestants from chatrooms.

rethoryke said...

I'd like to see a Great Performances episode called "Anna Karenina Get Your Gun". Anna [Patti Lupone] decides to skip the train tracks and demonstrate that you _can_ get a guy with a gun.

[Obviously, this would be a one-shot, and not a series....unless Anna gets an automatic....]

Jenn Thorson said...

Rhet- Ya know, you just don't see Russian Cowboy Eastern Block Old West Musicals much these days, either.

JD at I Do Things said...

HA!!!!!!

Another home run, Jenn. Great job.

I might actually watch "Big Brother: 1984 Edition." I'm guessing there are less fame-whoring, fake-boobed dunderheads in our dystopic future.

Jenn Thorson said...

JD- I didn't know you were such an optimist. :)

dani c said...

Wow..some really awesome ideas !!! I wish I could contribute but I lack creativity and television time ( thanks to the kids and cartoon network)...

ReformingGeek said...

The Amazing Grapes of Wrath?

Mike Riley said...

Jenn-

What an ingenious hoot! One or two CLASSIC reality show submissions:
-THE PICKWICK CLUB/ Mr. Pickwick and his friends explore England. Hey, it sounds like more fun than "The Osbornes"!
-THE INSPECTOR/ Teams of two aid "Inspector Javert" [Steve Martin] in hunting for "Jean Valjean" [Patrick Stewart, in a wig] through an incredible re-creation of 1830's Paris [Budapest].

Scarily, some of your ideas may make it to TV. After all, classics, which are almost all in the public domain, don't charge royalties for their use.

-MR

Jenn Thorson said...

Dani- Heh, I totally understand! I just appreciate your stopping by.

Reforming Geek- It does have a good ring to it, doesn't it? :)

Mike- I like that you went so far as to choose some fine casting, as well. Will Patrick Stewart escape safely (and keep his wig on)? We'll find out!