Money, power and greed: Reality TV

Bill Regardie Founder, Regardie's Magazine
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I was looking for a safe real estate investment; instead I got a call from Murray offering me the deal of a lifetime.

Murray was a Washington media maven, a deal maker. Which is why you always took his call.

“Regardie, it’s a good thing you got friends.”

“How much is this going to cost me.”

“Relax, I’m not selling charity ads.

“Listen, putz. I’m bringing you the deal of a lifetime: a 20% interest in a TV reality series we’re calling Survivor — The Battle of The CEO Slime Balls.

“We’re bringing back BP’s Tony Hayward, Tyco’s Dennis Koslowski, Enron’s Bernie Ebbers and Enron’s Jeff Skilling. Everyone’s going to tune in to see these scum balls get what they deserve. The ratings will be enormous.”

Holy shit, I thought. The four most-hated white collar criminals in America together on one show.

“What’s the catch, Murray?”

“Regardie, I’m only calling you because Harry Starr, your former star reporter, created and owns the concept. He said I had to include you, or no deal.

“I expect to close with Fox this afternoon and Harry wants you to have 20% of the deal for $250,000. The network will finance the rest. Just because you gave Harry his big break in your magazine 30 years ago.

Harry had been my star reporter. He always knew what the public wanted. Now he was taking this talent to TV.

I hated the show’s concept and its title. More importantly, none of my friends would watch this crap, which only meant the series would get huge ratings.

And the investors would get filthy rich.

“I’m in.” I shouted. “I’ll take a quarter mil,” figuring to hell with my grandkids’ college funds.

Then, I had a question for Murray: “How are we going to get these bums to act in the series?”

“They won’t and we don’t want them. We’ll fictionalize the whole thing and get actors to play them; really sinister looking characters. Further, since all four are public figures, we can screw around with their reputations, story lines, etc., all we want. Hey, this is America.

“We’ll come up with a script later, but it will have plenty of action: fighting, battles with wild animals, AK47’s, knives, Claymore mines and every other kind of dangerous weapon, attacks by cobras, tigers, killer spiders, etc., maybe someone even falls off or gets pushed over a 1,000-foot cliff. They have two weeks to reach the rescue site 200 miles away. Five episodes!

“The real beauty,” Murray continued, “is these guys will always be plotting against each other, screwing one another, etc. Think of it as a guy’s version of Desperate Housewife’s, except it’s a life-and-death game.

“But what happens during the actual survival segments,” I asked

“That’s where it gets ugly. And the ratings soar,” said Murray.

“For example, in the first segment, the natives discover that Jeff Skilling has been overcharging them as he did his coworkers at Enron. Only here, they skin him alive.”

“Ouch. What about Tony Hayward of BP?”

“In the second episode, he’ll be boiled in oil…from discarded BP cans…by the other survivors.

“What about Skilling and Ebbers?”

“Don’t know yet. We’ll figure out something nasty for them, though.”

“However, what I can share with you, in confidence, is the ending.”

“Tell me, tell me, I’m an investor!”

“Koslowski, the SOB who bought that $7,000 shower curtain with company money, is the only one to make it to the rescue site alive! The other three? Who knows?

“There’s a steak and a six-pack of cold beer waiting, but after the ordeal all he really wants is a long, hot shower.

“He peels off his rags, climbs under the hot water, pulls the cheap plastic curtain closed. He made it!

“Then, 12 natives blow poison darts through the curtain. Each one strikes home.

“Koslowski dies in agony on the dirt floor before he can claim his promised freedom and $5 million cash prize.

“It’s a perfect ending because the producers don’t have to pay out the prize money. And the public gets a happy ending.”

I was already counting my money.

Bill Regardie was the founder and publisher of Regardie’s Magazine.