So, what do you think so far of the Heene family's reality show, working title "Leave It to Balloon Boy"?
The first episode aired Thursday on just about every network in the world, and it was a ratings smash. It had drama, tension, a cute kid, hysterical parents, concerned cops and frightening yet scenic footage of the Colorado plains.
CNN cut away from a speech by the president to air it, and people all over America dropped what they were doing. They stood in slack-jawed silence watching the imminent death of little Falcon Heene, helplessly drifting across the prairie in a runaway flying saucer. And then it landed. Oh, dear! No Falcon! More drama. Where's Falcon? Did he plunge to his death?
After a brief commercial break, the episode ended happily when Falcon, every bit as adorable as Jerry Mathers in his early "Beaver" days, crawled out of the hiding place where he had been all the time! Cut to the touching final scene in which a tearful daddy apologizes before the cameras for yelling at little Falcon. Bring up the sappy music as America breathes a sigh of relief and savors the moral of the tale: Yelling at kids is bad. Cue the credits.
In the next ratings-busting episode, the family goes on CNN and Falcon shocks the world by saying: "We did this for the show."
America is aghast. You mean it was all a hoax? We wanted there to be a real kid in that saucer, a human drama to divert our attention from our own troubles, and all we got was a shiny, empty balloon in a field. And it was a sham?
By the following episode, the plot is thickening. Little Falcon, wedged on the couch with his family (new working title: "Falcon in the Middle"), is so distraught about spilling the beans that he throws up on the "Today" show! Poor little guy. His parents are jerks, we say. Off with their heads!
At first it looked like the "Flight of the Falcon" was a lucky break for Richard and Mayumi Heene, who had been shopping a reality show about their storm-chasing, death-defying family to all the networks.
The amateur scientists and professional publicity hounds were determined to be TV stars. For years they have been taking the kids along on their scientific adventures, like chasing hurricanes and making rockets, with the video camera whirring. Richard tried his own science show, but it never hit the big time.
Their first success on reality TV was the low-rent "Wife Swap," where two families with totally opposite lifestyles trade moms for a week. Of course, both families hate the arrangement, and they all come off looking like creeps. The Heenes were so good at it they were featured twice.
Mom and Dad even tried to turn the boys into kiddie rappers with a video on YouTube. Falcon and his two cute-as-bugs older brothers dance on railroad tracks, throw rocks at stuffed animals, string together a lot dirty words and recite jokes about flatulence, all the while rapping about what tough dudes they are. It's precious.
At some point, apparently, the parents decided to skip the middleman and launch the show themselves. And, boy, did we eat it up. Unfortunately, in Sunday's episode, the sheriff announced the jig was up. Now the Heenes are going to find out how much fun it really is to be celebrities in America.
Of course, they could still turn their stunt into a reality show — the bar is pretty low here. They could feature Mom and Dad behind bars and use the boys' rap video, with lots of bleeps, as a theme song.
Working title? I'd call it "Punked."