Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

“Balloon Boy” and the drive for reality TV fame

October 19, 2009

Now that authorities say last week’s balloon boy incident was just a hoax, the public is getting re-acquainted with the underside of reality television. Richard and Mayumi Heene, parents of the 6 year-old bothe-heenesy thought to be trapped in a balloon before he was found in an attic, are expected to be charged this week with making up the whole scenario.

If what authorities are saying about the Heenes is true, they may have been hungering for fame, and saw the hoax as a great way to get a reality TV show. As everyone knows by know, the Heenes already starred in a past episode of the reality show “Wife Swap.”

Reality TV is littered with personalities who have cashed in on whatever public prominence they have gained to try and become a media star.

The latest is disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is making a bid to star on Donald Trump’s reality show “Celebrity Apprentice.” Following his arrest last year on corruption charges, the much mocked Blagojevich became a reviled. But lack of popularity has never been much of a liability in the reality TV world, which relies heavily on villain-type personalities such as married provocateurs Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt.

rod-blagojevichBlagojevich’s wife, Patti, already had a role this year on the reality show “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” on NBC. At least the Blagojeviches keep it all in the family.

And then there are the parents who make their children the focus of a reality show, such as Jon and Kate Gosselin (“Jon & Kate Plus Eight”) and Nadya “Octomom” Suleman (“Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage”).

Rod Blagojevich and shows like “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” have parallels to the possible “Balloon Boy” hoax. Just as Jon and Kate Gosselin put their children in the spotlight, the Heenes did the same¬†with their 6 year-old son Falcon Heene. And just as the “Jon & Kate” show rolled on even after the couple announced in June that they were divorcing, the Heenes may try to capitalize on their newfound fame, even as they deal with their own nightmare — namely criminal charges.

After all, being charged with a crime does not bar you from becoming a reality TV star. The governor’s wife appeared as a replacement for him on “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!,” when a judge barred him from leaving the country to star in the show, because of the corruption charges he faces. But there do not appear to be many legal impediments to Rod Blagojevich starring in “Celebrity Apprentice,” because he would not have to leave the country for the show.

Similarly, could we expect to see the Heenes pop up in another reality show, even as they face criminal charges for allegedly orchestrating a hoax that got the fame in the first place? When did reality TV get so weird?


Wow- maybe I’m reading this wrong.
I’m understanding that a person can now go out and do something CRIMINAL and just have “charges PENDING” and be allowed to do “reality shows” NOW?
and These “CRIMINALS” are allowed to GET PAID by not only television shows but also SPIN FREE INFORMERCIALS about how they LIVE?
Well:::: I guess I”m weird then because I have NEVER WATCHED ANY of these LOONIES- whether it is Jon & Kate,
OctoPussy Mom,these BALLOON BABOONS or ANY of them – EVER.
I am living my OWN REALITY SHOW thank you.
So are people so BORED with their own lives now they have to WATCH TV and support interest in these GOLDDIGGING
I’m glad I have better things to WATCH and READ about then.

Posted by Cherie Nix | Report as abusive

This is why I don’t watch television anymore.

Posted by Liam | Report as abusive

The media needs to take a bigger responsibility. By highlighting such stories i’m afraid we are only feeding the accused.

Posted by Harsh | Report as abusive

It is just disgusting that parents would use their child to get media attention for themselves. Why are we giving this matter any attention at all.The media is giving these people just want they wanted and wasting everyones time doing it.

Posted by Susan Johnson | Report as abusive

Has anyone heard the Balloon Boy Father’s – New Revelation? WOW! uth/balloon-boys-father-a-new-revelation  /

Posted by John | Report as abusive

This article is littered with typographical mistakes:

1) “As everyone knows by know” (know ?!)

2) “mocked Blagojevich became a reviled” (a reviled what?)

Posted by Nicolas | Report as abusive

Does he work for Goldman?

Posted by rob | Report as abusive

I think these people have got to be the sleeze of the world. I wouldn’t watch a TV reality show with them if I never watched television again. Enough is enough. They should also be charged with some form of child abuse, Putting their children in the middle of something so embarassing is criminal. At a minimum, the agencies who chased that stupid balloon, and used their resources should slap a lien on every dime of income they have both now and in the future until the cost of this little escapade is reimbursed. Also, community service should be served as well as some time behind bars, maybe on weekends. Its about time we quit “rewarding” kooks like this for bad behavior!!


When you think about it involving children in reality TV has many similaries to child pornography: The footage is used by viewers to gain satisfaction by watching child involvement in deviant, discordant or socially unacceptable behavior; It destroys the child’s privacy in ways a child cannot even begin to understand; It has serious long-term negative affects on the child’s personal and professional life when they are adults; The child is being compelled to participate by an adult; It’s all done in the name of dirty, filthy money.

Do the network/TV execs feel NO responsibility for the destructive impact that these shows have on the lives of those involved – ESPECIALLY the KIDS!?! WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?!

Posted by Laura R | Report as abusive

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see