Fictional Families That Deserve Reality TV Shows
A biography of the Hilton family? Though its publication date is April 1, the book is no prank: J. Randy Taraborelli’s The Hiltons examines the history of the wealthy clan, from patriarch Conrad Hilton’s first foray into the hotel business in the early 20th century to the much-publicized excesses of his various descendants. Addiction-ridden Conrad “Nicky” Hilton Jr., celebrity spouses such as Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and, of course, our own tabloid-gracing heiresses, Nicky and Paris, all make appearances. As it turns out, the latter-day Hiltons aren’t the only generation of the family deserving of a show.
In addition to inspiring us to look up old clips from The Simple Life on YouTube, the book got us thinking about other families that would make for great reality television. Never ones to limit our imaginations to the real world, we came up with a list of fictional families from literature whose twisted dynamics, constant infighting, and gravitation toward drama would blow any other Bravo series out of the water.
It’s high time Bravo woke up to the fact that, when it comes to rich families with criminal amounts of time and money, Brooklyn is holding its own with Manhattan and the rest of the cities in which the Real Housewives franchise is set. Amy Sohn’s Prospect Park West, which satirizes the bourgeois antics and parenting mania of a group of families living in Park Slope, is a reality show waiting to happen. Episode 23: “Punches Thrown Over PS 321 Rezoning.”
The book: The Ice Storm by Rick Moody
Show it would resemble: Big Brother
Rick Moody’s 1994 novel centers on two Connecticut families, both riddled with sexual-revolution-era frustrations, who become snowed in for 24 hours during a Thanksgiving-weekend ice storm. A promising set-up and (but for the lack of round-the-clock video surveillance) a striking resemblance to the format of Big Brother. Throw some cameras in the bathrooms and bedrooms and you have yourself a drama-filled family edition of BB.
This 1812 novel by German author Johann David Wyss (the most famous English edition is the 1879 translation by William H.G. Kingston) about a family washed up on a remote island in the East Indies would make a great PG-rated version of the classic reality show competition. The novel, which the author wrote as a kind of instruction manual on survival for his sons, contains scenes of struggle, hardship, and improvisation that could easily be adapted into challenges. But would a family really vote to kick one of their own off the isle? For a million dollars, we think yes.
This novel about a father-son-road-trip-slash-spiritual-odyssey is already a cult hit. But it could reach even more fans if it were turned into an Amazing Race-style reality show. Instead of navigational challenges or treasure hunts, the producers could hit contestants with perplexing philosophical quandaries to solve. What, according to Phaedrus, is the definition of “Quality”? Go!
If Jane Austen were forced to feed her precious literary creation into the jaws of Hollywood’s reality-TV-generating machine, the result would be probably be something like The Bachelor. We can see it now: ladies lining up at the Netherfield Ball, shooting Mr. Darcy flirty glances, and cat-fighting with each other whenever he turns away. In an inspiring twist sure to irk producers, Lizzie Bennet would make it all the way to the finale and win—only to rebuff Darcy’s proposal and announce her desire to remain unmarried.
Real estate battles don’t get any grimmer than this, and the episode of House Hunters based on Dubus’s novel wouldn’t be for the faint of heart. A newly single woman at the end of her rope whose ancestral home gets mistakenly repossessed and sold to Iranian family with dreams of making it big in America? With a few attempted suicides and fatal shootings thrown in? Are we sick for wanting to see how HGTV would handle this?
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