Not all of us have a gold-plated toilet, a fleet of fine cars and a walk-in closet stocked with $500 shoes, but at least we'll be able to have them on TV. A glimpse into the glamorous life will soon be available 24/7 at just the cost of cable.
The latest generation of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" such as MTV's "Cribs," VH1's "The Fabulous Life" and E!'s "It's Good to Be" already delve into wealthy lifestyles, but now a cable network is in development to bring bling-bling to the masses starting June 1.
Wealth TV will go beyond just showing which rapper has what kind of rims on his ride to provide "intellectual" programming, according to spokesman Charles Herring, who said the network will dig into the subjects’ minds as well as their pockets.
"High-end people are already shown on TV but it's more gossip, which is entertaining, but they never have intellectual discussions on money," Herring said.
Instead of just filming fast cars and beach houses, the channel will tell the stories of how the rich earned their money, how they keep it and how they spend it. And despite their ratings popularity, "Simple Life"-like shows have no place on Wealth TV.
"I'd rather see a show on the Hilton family and what they did to build up that empire than on those two daughters," Herring said.
Lifestyle TV fan Mario Almonte, an account manager in New York City, said his paycheck probably wouldn't cover one night's rent at a celebrity hotspot, but shows that take viewers from Prince William's party to Mariah Carey's bathtub, have him mesmerized.
"There's a certain vicarious pleasure you get watching these shows because they present the rich people living fabulous lifestyles the way the Discovery Channel (search) presents exotic birds and animals going through their daily rituals," he said in an e-mail interview. "Like the exotic jungle cats ... they live in an environment that I will probably never see first-hand."
Wealth TV aims to make moneybags more accessible to viewers like Almonte.
The idea for the network was born 10 years ago when Robert Herring Sr., an entrepreneur and now CEO of Herring Broadcasting, Inc. (search), wanted to turn on the TV and learn how to buy a yacht.
"He wanted to have a station where he could see some of these high-end toys, not only because he wanted to buy them, but he thought the masses would want to see what's out there," said Herring's son, Charles.
There are already several successful lifestyle channels such as the Fine Living Channel, HGTV and Discovery Home & Leisure. But Adam Buckman, television columnist for the New York Post, said another one will probably find an audience.
"Ever since the number of available cable slots increased ... there seems to be plenty of room for lifestyle channels."
In fact, the wealth of programming is an asset, said Buckman. "If it can do two things at once it can succeed -- have programming that people recognize and offer more shows in a subject matter they enjoy, then set itself aside with new stuff."
Wealth TV has a plan for how to set itself apart. Shows such as "Cribs" “never explain why they paid so much for a private jet," Herring said. "That success for the owner may mean being able to fly to various meetings and then be home in time to have dinner with their family."
Buckman agrees that showing how the rich got rich could provide a valuable lesson.
"An awful lot of young people come to believe that it's easy to get rich ... no context is ever given in these shows -- 'I worked really hard to get this.'"
One planned program will even focus on philanthropy. "It will look into how people worked 60 to 70 hours a week and achieved success measured in wealth and then they give half of it away," said Herring.
Kevin McLaughlin, a small business owner in Pine Beach, N.J., said he loves lifestyles of the rich shows but feels conflicted -- angry at the excess wealth and depressed about his own life.
"I work hard and to watch the way these people spend with such excess can be frustrating.”
But that doesn’t mean McLaughlin’s turning it off. "It's like a car wreck. I can't help but watch. I think it is a bit of living vicariously."
The appeal of wealth is undeniable in this country, said Herring. "When you start talking about the house up on the hill everyone is interested, from children to people in their 70s. They want to know how the person got to where they are, how much the house cost, what's in it, and what it feels like to live in it."
"I think it's highly entertaining to everybody. Most importantly I think it's the American dream."