Analyze this, Dr. Joyce Brothers: There are currently six — count 'em, six — reality programs on the networks' schedules, and we can't bear to miss a single one. What does that say about us? We've "grown up with television," she tells TV Guide Online. "[You've] grown up spectators to other people... to other people's baseball playing and other people's football playing... " And, for that matter, other people's hot-tub canoodling and beach-blanket bickering. As a result, says the celebrity shrink, "Some [viewers] think that what goes on on television is much more interesting than real life itself. We've grown a whole generation of spectators." Is that all? Well, what if we favor one show over another? Ah, now that's a different story. Since the doctor is in, let the head games begin.
If you like Joe Millionaire (Mondays, 9 pm/ET, Fox)... Chances are, you're a Dear John-letter recipient whose wrath rivals that of any woman scorned. "It's a male getting-even fantasy," suggests Dr. Brothers. "It gives [men] a sense of, 'Okay, so that's what these [gorgeous, gold-digging] gals are like' — even though these gals didn't know what was going on."
If you like Star Search (Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 pm/ET, CBS)... It often crosses your mind that you oughta be in pictures. In fact, asserts Dr. Brothers, audience members "would love to be on television, so they get a feeling of satisfaction knowing that they could be [contestants], too." At the very least, groupies deserve to decide which of their stand-ins advance to the next level. "It makes them feel important," observes Dr. Brothers, "because if their votes didn't count, then there wouldn't be a show."
If you like The Bachelorette (Wednesdays, 9 pm/ET, ABC)... At heart, you're probably a hopeless romantic — with an axe to grind! Women don't just want to see Bachelor No. 1 Alex Michel's old flame, Trista Rehn, propose to Mr. Right, they want her to pop the question to Mr. Way Better Than Alex. Vindication, says Dr. Brothers, is what the fairer sex gets from The Bachelorette. Thus, it's no surprise, she laughs, that "it's not going to appeal to a lot of guys."
If you like High School Reunion (Sundays, 9 pm/ET, the WB)... You're human. Indeed, only a higher being could possibly resist revisiting the soap opera through which all of us mere mortals have lived. Heck, HSR even builds in opportunities for the former classmates — and, vicariously, all of us — to change their fates. "In America, we like to believe that you always have a second chance," theorizes Dr. Brothers. "You can always be the comeback kid." Maybe if you get a hall pass, anyway.
If you like Celebrity Mole (Wednesdays, 10 pm/ET, ABC) and The Surreal Life (Thursdays, 9:30 pm/ET, the WB)... You think that underdogs are the cat's meow. You could easily tune in to titter as fallen stars like Stephen Baldwin and MC Hammer slum it to extend their 15 minutes of fame by another few seconds. However, you're actually rooting for these has-beens to be returned to their former, um, glory. "What [viewers] want to see is not that people's lives take a turn for the worse," insists Dr. B, "but that everybody is entitled to try again." So we're not delighting in the depths to which these personalities have sunk? Nope, concludes Dr. B. We "want to see these stars come back." Perhaps. But if so, how come we're just itchin' to see the Mole episode in which Baldwin gets into a shoving match with that sneaky Corbin Bernsen?