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A Television Show That May Make You Sick

Jill Rachel Jacobs

While some are warning of a hunger tsunami, others are wetting their appetites for a new reality television program combining competitive food eating with intense physical challenges (No, I am not making this stuff up) in this latest installment of what I like to call "Why They Hate Us."

The premise goes a little like this: In each episode, five contestants attempt to inhale the largest quantity of food as quickly as possible. They are then immediately subjected to a series of "challenges designed to "shake them up," such as carnival rides, belly flops off a high dive, mechanical bull-riding. The contestant to hold their food down the longest is the victor winning cash prizes and the coveted Iron Stomach Award.

Hey! It gets better! Guess what the name of the show is called. (No, it's not called "Barf." That's like soooo juvenile.) It's called "Hurl." (No, I am not making this stuff up. Sheesh!) Set your Tivos as "Hurl" is scheduled to premiere this summer on the G4 Network.

I wonder how this all works. Like some wanna-be TV exec or bulimic has an idea and they're like, "Hey! Let's get some people to eat ginormous amounts of food until they puke and then we can film it and we'll give them some money and we can be rich and famous! That's the ticket."

I'm still having a little trouble wrapping my fragile brain around this whole food for fodder concept during a time when half the world is seriously starving while the other halves' (guess who?) waistlines are expanding almost as fast as George's Bush's plummeting approval ratings.

This whole eating until you heave reality show business sounds very much like something my nephew may have come up with, but he's 13 so stuffing your face with the possibility of puking is like a right of passage.

Shedding some light on the thinking behind this nouveau idea, G4 President Neal Tiles said, "G4's mission is to be a multimedia destination that's relevant and authentic to the interests of today's young male demo. Hurl! Is really an idea that is inspired by the world of viral video which has proven to be massively popular with young guys today."

Oh, so the premise of this nauseating show is really about feeding the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs of today's young male -- a demographic group that may hold the key to shaping the future of our society -- Oh! OK, well then that explains a lot. (Not!)

Maybe history is just repeating itself and we are now living what The Romans called "bread and circuses," "the ancient Roman metaphor for people choosing food and fun over freedom in order to divert attention from real issues." Although in these lean times, many are noticing a lot less bread and more circuses equaling more distractions, unless of course you land a spot as a contestant on "Hurl!"

Jill Rachel Jacobs is a New York-based writer and humorist whose publishing credits include The Washington Post, Newsday, The Christian Science Monitor, The Independent, The Toronto Star, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, NPR's Marketplace and WNYC's Morning Edition. See her blog here for related images and video.

Copyright, 2008

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