You won't see this on CNN, but the world's top scientists are quietly assembling, crossing political divides and international borders, to confront the greatest menace mankind has ever seen. They'll enlist only the bravest volunteers, all experts in their chosen fields -- think "Armageddon," just less Michael Bay-ish -- in a last-ditch attempt to save humanity. Their mission: Travel back in time to January 2003 and shut down "The Surreal Life" before it gets on the air.
The reality series began innocently enough by sticking the likes of MC Hammer, Emmanuel Lewis and Vince Neil in a house to see what would happen. But even ratings-challenged The WB canceled it after two seasons. Then VH1 picked it up, put Flavor Flav under the same roof as Brigitte Nielsen, and the result has been responsible for more bad TV than Nancy Grace and David Hasselhoff combined.
In addition to three seasons of "My Fair Brady" -- which starred Christopher Knight and Adrianne Curry and made it possible for virtually every obscure celebrity who wants cameras to document their every move to have just that -- "The Surreal Life" so far has spawned three "Flavor of Loves," three "Rock of Loves," three "Charm Schools," two "I Love Moneys," two "Real Chance of Loves" (the newest premieres at 9 p.m. Monday), two "I Love New Yorks," "New York Goes to Hollywood," "New York Goes to Work," "Strange Love," "For the Love of Ray J," "Daisy of Love" and "Megan Wants a Millionaire" (9 p.m. today).
About the only thing more surprising than the speed at which "The Surreal Life" has worked its way into every nook and cranny of the VH1 schedule -- seriously, that thing's more infectious than most of the stuff you'd find on a hotel comforter -- is the rate at which valley residents appear on these shows. (I think there's a box you can check at the DMV, next to the one that makes you an organ donor.)
Las Vegans Marcia and Ashley finished second and third on last week's finale of "Charm School with Ricki Lake," local ladies nicknamed "Aloha" and "Vegas" turn up on "Real Chance of Love 2" and Henderson's T.J. Diab is among the millionaires pursuing Megan Hauserman, whose biggest achievement in life was being rejected by Bret Michaels.
Aside from Diab, who seems like he just wandered over from Wisteria Lane, this has to be the most motley bunch of millionaires ever assembled. There's Audi, the millionaire barber, who enjoys "conversatin' " with Megan; Garth, the millionaire plumber, who looks like he survived an explosion at an Ed Hardy factory; and Donald, the 50-year-old producer of movies of the "Chainsaw Cheerleaders" variety, who's so painfully out of place you want to pull him aside for a hug.
"Winning a challenge isn't just an opportunity to win a date with me," Megan says at one point. "It's an opportunity to pamper me and buy me things." And buy things they do. The millionaires are shown showering her with pricey baubles and exotic vacations. Then, when Megan eliminates them, her catchphrase is "Your credit's been declined."
It would be easy to howl in outrage at the unseemliness of it all, especially at seeing tens of thousands of dollars wasted when many of us are a few months away from lining up for bread the way we once did for "Star Wars" movies.
And I'm not saying it's not an abomination. If you listen closely, I'm pretty sure you can hear the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse hot on Megan's stripper heels. But at this point, railing against shows like "Megan Wants a Millionaire" is like shooting slutty fish in a tacky barrel.
Besides, as they say, those with the greatest capacity for evil also have the greatest capacity for good.
Since one look will tell you most of Megan's suitors are in it for the publicity -- a contestant by the name of "Sex Toy Dave" also has promoted his adult wares on Bravo's "The Millionaire Matchmaker" -- and the show already is heavily scripted -- Megan complains that the birthmark on a millionaire stripper nicknamed Punisher looks like Cuba, when I'd bet good money she couldn't even spell Cuba, let alone recognize it on a map -- I propose yet another spinoff: "Megan Wants a Character From a Critically-Acclaimed-But-Little-Seen Drama."
Next season, Megan could spend a couple of months dating the likes of "Mad Men's" Don Draper, "Breaking Bad's" Walter White, "Friday Night Lights' " Tim Riggins, maybe even "Damages' " Patty Hewes.
When it was over, viewers would be tempted to follow them back to their own shows, the way they followed Megan from "Rock of Love 2" to hers, instead of tuning in to the inevitable "Rock of Love Minivan," which would show Bret Michaels dating various women on the way to his kids' soccer practice.
The idea just might save quality TV.
Not to mention all those millions it would save on time travel.
Christopher Lawrence's Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.