Reality TV falls into three basic categories: voyeur shows (Big Brother, The Anna Nicole Show), game shows (Survivor, The Amazing Race), and feel-good shows (The Nanny, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition).
Three Wishes (NBC, 9:00 ET) may be the ultimate feel-good reality show. Representatives of TV-land descend upon a small town, set up a tent, and listen to the people who line up with their supplications. The producers choose three deserving souls and grant their wishes.
A mother wishes for facial reconstructive surgery for her little girl injured in a horrible accident. The high-school cheerleading squad wishes for a new football field, the dream of a coach stricken with leukemia. A boy wants his stepfather to adopt him. The Hollywood visitors "work their magic," as they say, and grant the wishes. Everyone feels good. Everybody cries.
Contemporary Christian music star Amy Grant hosts the show, and she comes across as down-to-earth, sincere, and empathetic. She partially makes up for what is unsettling about the show: Hollywood comes across as an omnipotent deity who answers prayers, performs miracles, and changes lives.
On NBC's website, one can apply to receive the show's beneficence. "We are looking for emotional stories of people in need," says the site. "We want to help deserving people." The wishes have to "come from the heart" but there are "no limits to what this show can do or how many lives it can change. Anything you can imagine will be considered and price is not an object." Unlike the real God, who extends His grace to undeserving people, and unlike Christians who are told to give in secret, NBC does its good works, literally, to be seen by men.