Putting the Chicago Way on TV

City needs some edgy reality shows

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There's a huge problem with that bizarre new TV reality show "Swab Stories" being shot in New York and Chicago.

It's reportedly about volunteers getting their DNA tested. But what's so compelling about strangers having the inside of their mouths rubbed with a cotton ball on the end of a stick?


So I've come up with some new reality shows that should be produced here, shows like:

"Wagons Ho!" following beleaguered folks as they jump aboard covered wagons to flee corruption and taxes.

Don't forget that new dance show for anyone campaigning for mayor, and another about rap stars and gangsters called "Out of Chiraq."

Also, the hit that will sweep the nation, "Suburban Squeeze," about families that are being taxed out of their suburban homes.

I'll have more on the stunning lineup of shows later on in this space, but first, let's admit that for a long time, Chicago has had trouble with reality TV.

There was that short-lived series about mob wives, but heavy makeup and the screeching of fishwives can only go so far. There was one about Al Capone's family, but that was less exciting than mouth swabs.

The worst reality show was CNN's "Chicagoland," which was nothing more than a commercial for Rahm Emanuel, who was depicted as a lovable big-city mayor. And now Jimmy Fallon carries the torch.

What Chicago needs are earthy, dramatic, raw and edgy reality TV dramas, like:

 "Wagons Ho!" Follow several middle-class families as they board a wagon train set for a place where they can actually find jobs, and the politicians don't have four legs and a tail and suck human blood.

Couples include a cop and a nurse, a bus driver and a teacher, and an IT manager and his bicycle.

Singles follow, too, hoping for a place on the train, including a movie star, a professor and a girl named Mary Ann. They're led by a grizzled wagon master, and have many adventures trying to cross Lake Shore Drive with oxen and wagons.

"The Amazing Race (Public Transit Edition)" A dozen Chicagoans are given a measly $2 and a panhandler's cup and told to race across the city on the fastest, most reliable method of transportation in town: The CTA.

 "Mayor Tiny Dancer" Those who want to become the next mayor of Chicago must dance! Join Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his dance partner, Cook County Board President Toni "Sensible Shoes" Preckwinkle, as they bust a move.

Other potential candidates must dance as well, including Ald. Bob "Tans" Fioretti and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, as they compete in the Political Hokey Pokey, the Mayoral Chicken Dance and the Subpoena Any Second Waltz.

Dancers may be kicked off the show for showing too much skin, or for using the "White Man's Overbite." And in dance-alone mode, candidates who repeatedly bump the back of a chair with their pelvis will be penalized one ward.

 "Couches on the Street" Colleague William "Old School" Lee came up with this edgy concept. We put couches on the streets, finally giving people a place to sit down without having to buy something, and contestants tell sob stories while drinking alcohol. The audience votes on the best sob story.

 "Out of Chiraq" Crime-fighting rappers are deputized by a desperate mayor who has no other choice. Nicki Minaj and Che "Rhymefest" Smith lead different teams of contestants into rap battles against criminals who think they're rappers. The show will have a noir feel, with a "Sin City" look, and real live city workers will spray water to create cool-looking puddles. Animal control will supply the pit bulls.

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