The Most Cringeworthy Thing on TV?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes you can’t stop staring at car wrecks. And you don’t know why.
By Kevin Brass
In a crowded field, Botched may be the most cringeworthy program on TV. Sure, that’s a bold statement. And it doesn’t even begin to explore the nuances of any show with “Real Housewives” in the title. Yet there is something relentlessly icky about Botched, real toe-curling stuff that makes you question the course of mankind.
The E! network show spotlights failed plastic surgeries. By definition, it is gleefully exploiting damaged, delusional people eager to share their experiences on TV. No doubt, this is the foundation of many TV hits. But there is no fun in Botched. No shared fascination. Not even a hint of schadenfreude. Only a parade of scarred fame addicts willing to display their failed boob jobs for a chance at an E! spinoff.
This is well-trod territory for plastic surgery shows, a particularly sad branch of reality TV. Along with storage-container auctions and fashion model showdowns, butt implants and Botox have spawned a large family of steady earners for cable TV. There was Extreme Makeover, Dr. 90210, The Swan and don’t forget something called Bridalplasty. On Botched, everyone looks familiar. Reality show veterans shuffle through, picking up a paycheck on the circuit. Hey, there’s Janice Dickinson, that former model who did her own reality show, like, 10 years ago! And there’s the blonde from Baywatch — you know, the one who wasn’t Pamela Anderson! Wow, her boobs are really bad now!
Certainly there was no surprise in a visit from Tiffany Pollard, aka “New York,” who stops by to discuss her “ginormous breasts.” New York bitch-slapped her way to fame by wooing Flavor Flav in the historic Flavor of Love series. That spawned a vibrant reality show career for New York, including I Love New York, New York Goes to Hollywood and, of course, the much less successful New York Goes to Work. She’s been unhappy with her breasts for a long time, it turns out. “It’s like one tit is in Africa and the other is in Europe,” she explains for Botched fans.
We’ve seen all this before — the guys who want to look like celebrities, the wannabe porn stars, the surgery fanatics. Even the doctor hosts of Botched are reality retreads. Both Terry Dubrow and Paul Nassif did stints on Real Housewives shows before graduating to the plastic-surgery reality show racket. Botched goes a step lower than its kin by relentlessly focusing on damaged goods. And they seem to understand this is dicey territory. The doctors looked appropriately concerned when Katella, who had undergone gender-reassignment surgery, insisted she wanted to look like a blond blow-up sex doll with “triple-M” breasts. “If real, she needs help,” Nassif says sternly. Yet, they were more than willing to put her on TV, because, what the hell, nothing works better on TV than someone who may need psychological care.
If life were fair, Botched would be the death knell for plastic surgery shows. Instead it has simply spawned more of its kind. A new E! show, Good Work, features Dubrow and RuPaul talking about celebrity plastic surgery. Compared to Botched, it is the McLaughlin Group of plastic surgery shows.