Has Reality TV Hit Rock Bottom?

New shows highlight the freakish, the gross and the unworthy. It may get worse.

ByABC News
June 18, 2008, 6:25 PM

June 19, 2008 — -- Maybe you thought reality TV hit the lowest of the low when "Fear Factor" contestants devoured cockroaches, or when gold diggers paraded their wares in hopes of marrying a millionaire, or when Tila Tequila got a second shot at "love" with 10 guys and 10 girls.

Those shows look like "Masterpiece Theater" compared to what's coming.

Take, for instance, "Hurl," an eating-and-regurgitating competition in which contestants gorge themselves on everything from chicken pot pies to peanut butter sandwiches, then get strapped into spinning contraptions -- whoever vomits last wins.

Also in store for this summer: "Wipeout," in which contestants try to surmount obstacles that include giant, mud-covered "dirty balls" only to fall flat on their faces, and "Greatest American Dog," in which canines that could care less about TV are forced to compete with each other.

Then there's Nicole Richie. Famous solely for her friendship with Paris Hilton and their reality series "The Simple Life," Richie is reportedly shopping a show that would scour the nation for the next Nicole Richie. According to EW.com, the show would take seven girls and test their ability to turn from small-town nobody into star, no talent required. The winner would be granted -- what else? -- her own reality show.

Sound like reality TV's running out of ideas? John de Mol seems to think so. De Mol, co-founder of the international media giant Endemol (responsible for hits such as "Deal or No Deal," "Big Brother" and "Fear Factor"), has started a Web site, TalpaCreative.com, to solicit show concepts from fans.

Is this it? Has the genre been tapped? Is the end to reality TV's reign of terror near?

No. If you think we've hit rock bottom, you ain't seen nothing yet.

"When Lindsay Lohan's mom gets a reality show, something's terribly wrong," David Bianculli, TV critic for NPR's "Fresh Air" and tvworthwatching.com, said about Dina Lohan's E! reality show. "This is not bottom of the barrel, this is excavating beneath the barrel. I don't think we're done yet. The question is, how deep can we go as we move towards the center of the earth?"