toplesstanningMany television trends have come and gone over the years. The dawn of dark premium cable dramas, documentary-style sitcoms, and of course, the modern crown jewel of ratings: reality television. With the number of channels seeming to grow constantly, reality television shows cover, well, everything. But one new trend is difficult to ignore: nakedness.

Ever wanted to watch strangers get acquainted on first dates, while naked? Check out VH1’s “Dating Naked.” Ever wanted to watch a survival show in which the contests fight to find food and shelter, while naked? Check out Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid” (easily the most ominous title to come along in a while). Ever wanted to watch couples house shop, while naked? Check out TLC’s “Buying Naked.” Whew. Get the idea?

Two people getting dropped in a dangerous South American country sounds pretty exciting, right? But c’mon, we’ve seen that type of show a thousand times. So why is watching a show with an all-too-familiar premise suddenly worth watching because the participants are naked? While pondering that, consider this: none of these channels are pedaling actual nudity. So viewers rarely see anything but blurred out fleshiness house-hunting and having first date conversations.

Are we enjoying the absurdity of the situation? Does the nakedness somehow heighten the drama? To attempt to answer this, I think it’s important that we consider films and television where nudity plays a more integral part of the plot. How about the movie about the big vessel that sank in the Atlantic? That Canadian woman sang about hearts going on and there was some very tasteful nudity. Here the nudity was sensual, romantic, intimate and made for some pretty captive viewing. The nudity made the story better and love story all the more engaging.

We naturally associate nakedness with vulnerability, intimacy, in short — the private moments of our lives. So having participants both do mundane and death-defying things in the buff is juxtaposing drama with our frame of mind during the most uncomfortable and pleasant moments we know. The nakedness adds a degree of urgency to any situation. Moreover nudity in essence attempts to remove all mystery from those prancing about in their birthday suits.

Does nakedness make for good television? Time will tell, but it’s likely the number of shows with naked participants will keep growing for at least a few years.

Now, I have to ask: Does anyone really want to watch a middle-aged naked couple inspect the inside of an oven? Brings new meaning to buns in the oven.

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