NEW YORK – What do you get when you combine several relentlessly self-promoting has-beens, a cheesy house with a round bed, people who've posed naked - and a camera?
If you guessed a porn film, you'd be one-sixth right.
If, however, you guessed yet another season of "The Surreal Life" (search) on the WB, you'd be 100 percent on the money.
This year, the stellar rundown of former celebrities has really reached an all-time low: porn-star Ron Jeremy; disgraced-evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker now-Messner; one-time-"CHiPs (search)" guy Eric Estrada; white-rapper Vanilla Ice; former "Baywatch" (search) babe Traci Bingham; and the biggest nobody of all, Trishelle Canatella, who was once on "The Real World: Las Vegas."
This is what we've come to: people show up as guests on reality shows because they were once on reality shows. Dear God!
At this rate, "The Surreal World" can return endlessly - since there is an endless supply in Hollywood of reality show survivors looking to reclaim their 11 minutes of fame.
On Sunday night's episode, a bus picks up the new housemates, who are unaware of what other has-beens they will be living with over the next few weeks.
Yes, everyone knows Estrada and Tammy Faye (search), but the faded fame of Vanilla Ice, Ron Jeremy, Traci Bingham and most especially Trishelle Canatella make them a bit more obscure - to everyone except themselves.
Bingham gets on the bus in strawberry-colored plastic pants and immediately announces she's getting off the bus because she's shooting a show that day. Excuse me? This is the show.
The rest of them ride to this horrible house that looks like it was decorated by the set designers of "Laugh In" (search) circa 1965. It's all pop art wallpaper and matching bed spreads, crinkly aluminum foil on the other walls, and just about everything you had hoped had blessedly disappeared off the face of the earth.
The only two people who come off as nice - or even human - are Tammy Faye and Estrada, who try to maintain some sort of collegiality.
Bingham, who has confused herself with a big star, starts carrying on about how she can't bathe in the tub because it's the wrong color and probably doesn't even have filtered water.
This of course, makes the ex-TV cop Estrada burst out: "You sound like a plant - they put you in here to bust our nut!"
Ron Jeremy, who looks like a fat gnome with dyed hair, lurks around like somebody's dirty old uncle, and insists on showing his giant belly whenever possible (thankfully, it's regular TV and we are spared the sight of the body part for which he's most famous).
And Vanilla Ice? He's still angry, although it's unclear why, other than the fact that he says "Fame sucks!" and the equally deep "Reality sucks!"
But it's not until he dispenses his views of life, God and the universe that you understand the depth of the man.
He says he's realized that we (that would be humans) are actually descended from aliens from a smarter planet.
And given this group, chances are better than good that he's right. Who else could be this dumb?
More importantly, who knew anything could make you love and feel protective of Tammy Faye?