Trump Picks Up “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Gauntlet
Filed under: TV
This fall, NBC’s “The Apprentice” will pit a team of white folk against a team of black folk. It’s an interesting choice, not only because of standard American squeamishness when it comes to issues of race, but also because ABC recently pulled “Welcome to the Neighborhood” because of protest from various interest groups.
Renee Graham of the Boston Globe thinks the premise is a good idea. She also thinks it will never happen.
If you think seeing someone eat a spider or a bowlful of animal testicles on NBC’s “Fear Factor” is terrifying, imagine watching teams segregated by race competing against each other week after week. Of course, the camera-savvy contestants would likely be on their best, politically correct behavior, self-censoring any epithets or open bigotry toward the opposing team. Any racial fireworks - surely, the whole point behind such a concept - would be minimized.
Yet such a gimmick would be invaluable because it would prompt viewers to examine their own feelings about race and racial attitudes in the workplace.
Beginning with the unassuming premiere of MTV’s “The Real World” in 1992, we’re more than a decade into the modern age of reality TV. We now know all we need to about how much some people don’t like their faces (”Extreme Makeover”), their kids (”Brat Camp”) or their relationships (”Temptation Island”). Once Mark Burnett and “Survivor” introduced a reality-show staple - voting off contestants - we found out that we don’t much care for each other either, especially with prize money on the line. Still, “The Apprentice” daring to dig beneath our polished veneer of tolerance would be nothing short of revolutionary, must-see TV.
Which is exactly why it probably won’t happen.
For all the lip service given to conquering prejudice, racial and ethnic intolerance continue to undermine so much of what’s supposed to make this country great. Yet so quick are we to cringe at the mention of racism, we tend to shut down even the possibility for thoughtful discussions, likely out of the fear they might prove too painful and self-revealing.
That’s because it dared to be about something and mirrored our own discomforts in dealing with people of different backgrounds. From the incendiary drama “Crash” to Oprah’s snub at the Hermes store in Paris, it’s been a compelling year for provocative discussions about race, and what better place to continue that conversation than on one of TV’s most popular shows?
Reprinted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.