The rise of reality programming on television is largely based on the overwhelming popularity and consistent interest in sports programing on television. Sporting events bring in big viewers, especially dedicated viewers whose majority happens to be a sought after, yet hard to reach demographic. Nobody loves this more than the advertisers. Like sports programming, reality television has the unexpected factor since it is after all, “reality”.
The beginning of the 2000s marked the start of the reality show trend in television, primarily on primetime. Reality shows are relatively cheap to produce, bring in the viewers, and are money makers — mostly due to sponsors and mass advertisement via commercials and in-show product placement. However, in recent years we are beginning to see more and more active professional athletes participating in reality television.
Chad Ochocinco and Hines Ward’s recent appearances on Dancing with the Stars, are prime examples of this new trend. Two notable Lakers are getting involved in the rising pop culture staple as well. Lamar Odom and wife, Khloe Kardashian’s Khloe and Lamar on the E! Network recently wrapped up its first season. Ron Artest — now known as Metta World Peace, is also getting his feet wet in the reality show world as well. Artest Last Second Shot is different from Odom’s show concept, as it involves the rehabilitation of parolees.
Artest spoke of his show’s vision by stating in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “My whole goal one day is to cut the jail system in half with the amount of inmates in there. Just cut it in half and see what we can do and how we can work together and fall back to education, because right now America is losing that education battle around the world. You take it step by step. You don’t try it overnight. It might take 20 to 30 years. It might take a long time, but we’ll continue to work together.” Secondly, unlike Odom, Artest has and will be shooting episode material during the offseason this summer.
Artest’s Last Second Shot has a different overall feeling compared to Odom’s Khloe and Lamar. Yet, to group them as reality programming, we must ask if this a good idea for active, prominent professional athletes. Personally, I am more on board with Artest’s project because of its concept and the fact that it is not recording during the season. With that being said, Artest and Odom’s reality shows can easily become a distraction. Absolute focus by every single player is crucial for the team’s performance and their chance of ultimate success.
Many will argue that Odom’s reality show didn’t get in his way of winning Sixth Man of the Year and enjoying arguably the best season of his career. They would be right, for now. Even Lakers great, Magic Johnson, said he would advise against filming a reality show during the season on his May appearance on Conan. How long does it take for the reality shows to become a distraction? I believe many Lakers fans will agree, we don’t want to find out.