A reality game show just isn't complete these days without a smarmy send-off.
By AMISHA PADNANI
LONG ISLAND NEWSDAY
They've struggled on remote islands, danced the Hustle on cue and eaten rotten squid guts for our entertainment. However, reality TV show contestants haven't been humiliated to the max until they've been cut down by that catchphrase at the end of every episode.
From the old standby "You're fired" (NBC's "The Apprentice") to the less memorable "You can't always get what you want" (VH1's "Kept"), one-liners used to eliminate people have gotten progressively cheesier.
So why do producers spend so much time writing them?
"Cheesy one-liners have long been a staple of popular culture," much like the Terminator's "I'll be back," says Mark Andrejevic, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. Above all else, he adds, one-liners give reality-TV-show addicts a chance to participate.
Viewers agree that they can't get enough of those lines. "It adds pizzazz," says Amanda Sabia, 17, a Long Island high school student, who says she watches reality TV every day. "You look forward to it."
It's not easy coming up with those phrases, though. Shari Levine, executive producer of Bravo's "Project Runway," says it took weeks of bouncing around ideas to come up with, "Either you're in or you're out. And you're out."
A good elimination line is "just very quickly a visual moment or a sound moment that encapsulates lots of aspects of the show," she says. "It's a water-cooler buzz moment."
In fact, sometimes the only reason people will watch a show is for the elimination line. At least that's how some feel about the Martha Stewart version of "The Apprentice." To tease audiences, the producers are keeping her one-liner a secret until the show debuts this fall on NBC.
"I'm no fan of Martha Stewart," says Trevor Freeman, a writer for RealityFanForum.com. "However, the show and her final line could be good if done right. I definitely want to hear what she's going to say."
Audiences may crave these one-liners, but some producers have reservations. "It feels more hokey," says Stuart Krasnow of Krasnow Productions. "They remind the audience that there's something contrived going on," like a marketing gimmick.
Krasnow, executive producer for catchphrase-heavy "Weakest Link" ("You are the weakest link. Goodbye.") and "Dog Eat Dog" ("You're headed to the dog pound."), says he hopes one-liners will eventually be eliminated. "When you add a structural element to a show that's about people kind of running amok ... it brings you down to earth in what I'm not sure is a good way."