Reality TV, Iraqi style

by Chris Bertram on August 28, 2005

The NYT has a great story on “how Western-style reality tv is spreading to Iraq”: .

bq. Reality TV could turn out to be the most durable Western import in Iraq. It has taken root with considerably greater ease than American-style democracy. Since spring 2004, when “Materials and Labor” made its debut, a constellation of reality shows has burst onto TV screens across Iraq. True to the genre, “Materials and Labor” has a simple conceit at its heart – Al Sharqiya, an Iraqi satellite network, offers Baghdad residents the chance to have homes that were destroyed by the war rebuilt at no cost to them.

Read the whole thing, as they say.



derek 08.28.05 at 5:29 am

I love that phrase “destroyed by the war”.


Brendan 08.28.05 at 5:39 am

This reminds me a bit of an ‘Onion’ parody. They claimed (this was in the ’90s) that the Russian version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ was called ‘Who Wants to Eat a Meal?’

Perhaps we could have Iraqi versions of The Krypton Factor where the task is to get to the shops and back without being blown up/clubbed to death/electrocuted/shot by the Americans.

Or an Iraqi version of the Japanese game show ‘Endurance’ in which the task is just to…well…stay alive for as long as possible.

The winner could get a ticket out of the country or something.


yabonn 08.28.05 at 5:56 am

Destroyed by the war is a good one. This one could describe a whole category of articles :

The phenomenon is a testament to both the globe-straddling reach of American popular culture and the ease with which people in other parts of the world – even those who are hostile toward the United States – adapt that culture for their own uses.

They do like us : relief!

Someone should start a U.S. xeno-anxiety zoo. I propose two first specimens, to be displayed along Mr Wong masterpiece : the movies were the american family/protagonist lands in a foreign country (foreign-and-potentally-threatening-blabber ensues) and the ubiquitous waiter stories (it’s because i’m an american i had to wait!).

Besides, wasn’t it the Dutch who unleashed the real-tv plague onto the world?


Jake 08.28.05 at 9:56 am

“Besides, wasn’t it the Dutch who unleashed the real-tv plague onto the world?”

Indeed. Those wicked burghers.


Jessica 08.28.05 at 11:11 am

I’d like to see an American reality TV show done in Iraq that honestly depicts what is going on over there.


Brendan 08.28.05 at 1:34 pm

It may well be that the whole Iraqi adventure turns out to be a Big Brother, reality tv type game show, with the last Iraqi left alive winning the country.


wbb 08.29.05 at 2:12 am

I too enjoyed the assumption in the article that the USA is the source of all contemporary culture.


James Wimberley 08.29.05 at 6:48 am

British TV is infested with DIY reality shows. My favourite in this general area is the BBC series “Life of Grime”, which makes heroes out of council sanitation workers tackling blocked drains, rats, and corpses left three weeks before the neighbours noticed. Dignity of labour and all that.


Nicholas Gruen 08.29.05 at 8:26 am

‘Reality TV’ catching on in Iraq. The mind boggles.

After boggling, my mind remembered Hung Le’s line about the Vietnam war.

It really brought war into our living rooms. And we didn’t even have a TV


Peter 08.29.05 at 9:23 am

I like the idea. But then I used to like This Old House back when they were actually fixing stuff up, instead of hearing sheltered yuppies whine “well, we’re on a tight budget, we only have half a million dollars to spend”.


Elyas Bakhtiari 08.29.05 at 9:47 am

“This is the only good thing we’ve acquired from the American occupation,” Majid al-Samarraie, the writer of “Materials and Labor,” said as he watched the reconstruction of Ms. Ismail’s home.

I would have to say this is the third worst thing we’ve exported to Iraq, just behind death and destruction. I’ve never really believed in evil as an entity, but if Evil does exist as some kind of supernatural force, I’m almost positive that it would manifest itself as Reality TV.

We should apologize to the Iraqis for this.


jayann 08.29.05 at 11:20 am

British TV is infested with DIY reality shows

which we export to the US (they all watch Changing Rooms, you know) along with Benny Hill and Tom Jones. The ignominy.


jonathan 08.29.05 at 10:01 pm

Yes, it were the dutch, and the producer John de Mol has launched his own private network, called Talpa (Latin for his sirname, mole)
While selling Big Bother V the slogan is: “People remain interesting”

I suggest this: How about a genocide-reality tv-show?

It’s basically Humor and TV that has numbed the entire fucking world into mental slavery, which is fine…as posted before me, it’s relief. It’s fantasy.

For now, I hop e Iraq will embrace more and more media-oriented projects, so that maybe they can build some social fiber hat will hold this ethnic timebomb together. Perhaps Reality-TV is modern day dictatorship.


ajay 08.30.05 at 4:06 am

I hop e Iraq will embrace more and more media-oriented projects, so that maybe they can build some social fiber hat

Social fiber hat? You mean like a hemp beret?

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