FOX, MTV, and ABC

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Memo to Fox, MTV, and ABC: YOU ARE DUMB.

OK, which of you greedy bastards decided that PLASTIC SURGERY was the next great spectator sport?

Was the profession somehow not despicable enough? Was there some meeting where everyone came to the conclusion that earning billions off of insecurity, creating bionic freaks for Hollywood, and blowing boobs up to the size of a side of beef simply didn't cut it in 2004, and the only way for the industry to reclaim its position at the right hand of Satan was to be filmed and turned into a contest for consumption by the increasingly jaded masses?

I'd love to understand, somehow, an environment where "I Want A Famous Face" and "The Swan" seem like good ideas. Where nobody even thinks to object. Where, by the way, all the "media watchdogs" who scream at the top of their lungs every time we see a titty or a fake decapitation fall silent.

At least MTV tries to draw a thin veneer of plausible deniability over the whole thing. I Want A Famous Face is a documentary, you see. MTV did not arrange for or pay for any of the plastic surgery the seven deluded souls got in order to look like celebrities. They merely watched, filmed, aired, promoted, and put up web polls about the whole process. After all, it's not like the network that airs Cribs, Made, and Pimp My Ride would want to seem like they're promoting spending oodles of money and effort to turn something ugly into something pretty but ultimately pointless.

But its The Swan that makes me wish there was a Hell, if only because the kind of shit the people behind it deserve is actually LEGAL there.

The Swan, the brainchild of FreemantleMedia, the people who brought you American Idol, a bunch of game shows, and "Date Patrol", is basically a reality show leading up to a beauty pageant. The twist? All the contestants will gradually be TRANSFORMED into pageant-worthy beauties by a team of fitness trainers, lifestyle coaches, and COSMETIC SURGEONS.

And lest you think the plastic surgery thing is merely on hand to correct hideous deformities like superfluous third and fourth ears, missing body parts, or horrible burn scars, a quick skim of the official list of "experts" from the official Swan website provides the following counts: Life Coaches: 1. Therapists: 1. Fitness Trainers: 1. Dermatologists: 1. Laser Eye Surgeons: 1. Cosmetic Surgeons: 3.

A count that is, surprise surprise, strangely at odds with the official information released about the show, which mentions inspiration, work ethic, growth, and achievement, and omits hours under the knife, the dangers of anaesthesia, medical complications, all of which, I'm sure, are covered in the waiver all the contestants read and understood fully when they signed.

But then, really, having 20 people surgically rearrange their bodies to win a meaningless show-specific pageant is only a few steps farther beyond the pale, when you consider the ground already laid by ABC's "Extreme Makeover". Extreme Makeover doesn't actually pit its surgical reconstructions against each other in an arena of death like The Swan, it just promises to "change the lives" of people by letting them fulfill their "Cinderella-like fairy tale wishes.

The thing I love best is, just like The Swan website, the Extreme Makeover website barely manages to keep its bubbling evil in check under the guise of politely-worded show information. If you look at the actual contestant bios, every single one of them follows the exact same pattern. Name. Age. Occupation. Possible brief history. List of between eight and 20 surgical procedures.

The bits of color are the best part. Take Dan, a balding, sorta nerdly-looking dude who wanted to (a) boost his self-esteem, and (b) catch the eye of a co-worker he had a crush on. In my life, I've known a lot of nerdly guys who've harbored a lot of secret crushes, and most of those creepy motherfuckers would NOT have been fixed by what Dan got: chin and jowl implants, buckle pads excision*, liposuction on the cheeks, liposuction on the chest, abdomen and hip rolls, fat injections in the face, a hair weave, Lasik eye surgery and dental work, including gum reshaping, teeth whitening and 8 upper veneers.

I can only presume that, thanks to Extreme Makeover, Dan is now a love-handle-free, no-glasses hunk who will look very nice when he's lurking in the bushes outside his co-worker's house throwing dead animals at her windows.

Just remember, the next time you feel the urge to tune into one of these shows, that you're entertained by people carving themselves like a Thanksgiving turkey. Seems pretty damn DUMB to me, but its obviously a bigger moneymaker than Firefly, so what the hell do I know?

* I do not know what this is, and am hesitant to find out. Not once have I come across the "buckle pad" mentioned in any anatomical sense, so if Dan somehow had developed them, I could understand why he'd want them excised. If I found a shoelace eyelet or two growing out of my leg, I'd consult a medical professional too.

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