I've decided to branch out from writing only columns, blogs, memoirs and features. I want to put my words where the real money is these days: reality television. So in hopes of attracting untold riches and the special cultural respect that comes with composing lowest-common-denominator entertainment, here are some ideas for reality TV shows I'd like to see.
Tim Newman's House Party: Each week, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tim Newman greets a new group of five "contestants" to his generously stocked luxury penthouse "headquarters." Over a period of three days, the contestants — out-of-towners who are considering Charlotte for their respective groups' conventions — have their desires and whims treated as orders from God. The quintet is limo'd to the most expensive restaurants in the city and treated to high-dollar luxury boxes at Bobcats or Panthers games (depending on the season), golf at Quail Hollow and white-knuckle rapids rafting sessions at the Whitewater Center. In addition, contestants get to ride in a stock car personally driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 190 miles per hour, after which Speedway owner Bruton Smith wears each female contestant like a hat. Each week's winning contestant is the one who arrives home with the most goodies (extra points for gallon bottles of liquor; double points if contestants receive one of Tim's special backrubs).
Who You Callin' a Homo?: The six most rabid homophobes in Mecklenburg County — three men and three women — are selected, put through involuntary sex change surgery, and forced to set up housekeeping together. Once per week, all of them are given just-short-of-lethal doses of aphrodisiacs and locked in their house, with cameras rolling. Hmm, wonder if there's anything in the Old Testament about that?
Lynx Line Entrepreneurs: In this show, three two-person teams, working at different times, try their hand at freelance salesmanship aboard the Lynx Blue Line trains. One person watches out for CATS enforcers, while the frontline salesperson uses a vintage "cigarette girl" tray to peddle an array of items most requested by Lynx riders. Choices include gum, cigarettes, flavored blunts, bottled water, $1-per-minute rentable cellphones, lip gloss, breath mints and condoms. For those "special" customers on their way to a party, a hidden compartment in the salesperson's tray opens to a selection of premium buds, rocks, disco biscuits, nose candy and pipes. Each week, a winning team (assuming at least one team avoided arrest) is crowned champion and gets to come back to defend its title.
Ruth Samuelson Needs Advice: The Charlotte state lawmaker who introduced the Women's Right To Know bill, which mandates that women who have abortions must get "all the information they need" (as decided by the government), is the star of the show. Watch Ruth as know-it-all busybodies intrude upon her personal choices. Look at Ruth as she's forced to listen to a lecture about overdosing on codeine before she can take something for her cold. See Ruth try to buy a dog and have to first watch a presentation on the costs of veterinary care, training, and dog nutrition, as well as pictures of child victims of dog bites and photos of dogs that were run over by speeding cars. Watch Ruth as she tries to buy a bottle of gin, but first must sit still for a photo display of drunks throwing up in their front yards, as well as a 30-minute montage of violent car crashes. Oops, Ruth needs new eyeglasses; too bad she'll have to watch a film of people poking themselves in the eye with the glasses' stem before she can purchase her new specks. Finally, see Ruth complain to the local media about how government needs to keep out of people's private decisions.
Ballantyne Homeless Camp: A select group of Ballantyne residents, chosen from those who derailed a plan for low-income housing in their area, are treated to an elaborate setup. Each person loses his/her job, home and savings, and joins the ranks of Charlotte's homeless — doesn't that sound like fun? These members of the Formerly Comfy are followed by a camera team during the day as they scrounge for food and learn how to avoid the police. In the evening, they're filmed as they settle into their own private Ballantyne homeless camp, complete with "luxury homes" (Jenn-Air and Northland refrigerator crates), book clubs (three women fighting over the comics section), and gourmet cooking (Beenie Weenies heated over sterno with a touch of sun-dried tomatoes, scavenged from an Uptown restaurant's dumpster). Each week, one resident is voted out of the camp, unless someone has been killed that week, in which case a memorial service featuring pork skins and a quart of Red Dagger is held.
Parking Lot Tic-Tac-Toe: You know or you've surely heard that rush-hour I-485 around Pineville is a giant parking lot, right? I say it's time the commuters stuck in those cars get to enjoy some entertainment, so let's put them on TV! Each week in this exciting show, two contestants will fly over the parking lot in small, personal-size helicopters, pick out nine adjoining cars, and play tic-tac-toe on the cars' roofs with giant Sharpies. Winner is first to win four out of seven matches, and gets to show up the next week to defend her/his title.
Other ideas still in conception phase: Local Government Consolidation Fight Club; Panthers owner Jerry Richardson's Home Lock-Out Game; GOP Library Makeovers; and The Franklin Graham/Sarah Palin Cooking Show.
Thanks to the late George Carlin for the "just-short-of-lethal doses of aphrodisiacs" idea.