The Heene family reality TV show

Here’s a stunner.

Officials now believe the saga of the “boy on the balloon” in Colorado was part of an elaborate hoax.

Officials in Larimer County said Sunday they will file charges, including felony counts, against Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi.

The sheriff there now believes the entire stunt was concocted as a way to pitch a new reality show.

Why am I not surprised.

From the moment this story literally streaked across the radar screen last week, as the nation sat riveted in front of TVs wondering about a 6-year-old who was on board a homemade space ship that somehow came untethered from the family’s home and was floating over the Colorado landscape, I’ve been skeptical.

I got about a minute of the father on camera before my suspicions were confirmed. Remember Andy Warhol’s famous comment about everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame? Richard Heene just might be the poster boy for this kind of story.

It says a lot about us as a society, and as media, that we continue to deliver this 24-hour diet of what is becoming an increasingly blurred picture of what is news, what is entertainment, and what is a “reality TV” hybrid of the two.

Last week’s stunt was initially believed to be real, and was covered as such, with live images of the balloon – supposedly with its precious cargo intact. We got a live commentary on the story, regardless of what the talking heads actually knew or could confirm about what was going on.

We now know it wasn’t real at all. The 6-year-old was never on the balloon. And when the family dutifully showed up on The Larry King show that night, the boy – named Falcon - intimated that “we did it for the show.”


This was not the family’s first leap at reality TV. Heene and his wife once took part in a TV show called “Wife Swap.”

People actually tune it to watch this stuff. They also will tune in to the notion of a 6-year-old trapped and helpless in a homemade balloon thousands of feet above the earth.

And the public eats it up.

The Heenes now likely have more than they bargained for in terms of their 15 minutes of fame.

They aren’t the first.

They won’t be the last. Something will come along to replace them.

That’s the thing about a 24-hour news cycle. You have to have something to put on to fill those hours.

For right now, the Heene family saga will do nicely.

Film at 11.


Amy said…
I am hoping it was not a hoax, because that would be a twisted thing for the parents to do.