Why Balloon Boy Hoaxers Will Go to Jail & Still Get Their TV Show
We did this for a show! So true. When you prove just how stupid and gullible our culture has become by attracting a record-shattering international television audience with an initially heart-rending but ultimately ludicrous sideshow, you’ll go to jail. And after that, we’re going to put you back on TV. The Heene family may be about to surrender to authorities, and they may be convicted of a crime (probably a misdemeanor, as felony conspiracy will be difficult to prove). But after the legal smoke clears, you can rest assured that the Heenes will get the TV show they’ve always wanted. Skeptical? Then ask yourself this question — who’s the more repellant criminal, balloon-boy dad Richard Heene or canine-combat enthusiast Michael Vick?
Vick, as you certainly know, is an NFL quarterback convicted in 2007 of running a dogfighting ring, a crime for which he served 18 months in prison. Upon release, Vick rejoined the NFL and embarked on a redemptive publicity blitz, with BET signing him for an upcoming reality show called The Michael Vick Project. Oh sorry — this won’t be a reality show, but rather a “docu-series.” Does that mean it will be more or less “real” than a “reality” show? Doesn’t matter, does it?
The Heenes are undoubtedly screwed up, from their perverse fame-seeking family dynamic to their inept pseudo-science to Richard Heene’s belief in a global conspiracy of shape-shifting lizard people. But will they make for good TV? News program ratings doubled during the flight of the boy-less balloon. In the micro-sample of the BlackBook office, work pretty much ceased as everyone was glued to the net news feed. And as each thread in the Heenes’ scam unraveled over succeeding days, it’s been pretty much the principal topic of conversation, online and off.
So would you rather watch (and yes, you have to pick) a “docu-series” attempting to piously rehabilitate the image of a man who made dogs kill each other for money, or an honestly exploitative circus about a clan of telegenically damaged freaks who merely wasted a few thousand taxpayer dollars? The answer is that you must watch both shows, or at least hear about them incessantly. Because I guarantee they are both very much greenlit. And you can bet there are dozens of similar schemes cooking up in the garages and backyards of would-be fameballs nationwide. Every boy secretly wants to be the next balloon boy, even if that “boy” is a wackjob with a midlife crisis and a Youtube channel. For their critics, the most galling result of the Heenes’ scheme will be that its spectacular failure will also fuel its ultimate success.