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The balloon boy: A reality show on life behind bars?

Heene Who needs reality shows when we have fiction parading as reality? Or is it the other way around? First there was the media's breathless, moment-by-moment coverage of the silver balloon floating above the Colorado landscape, supposedly with a 6-year-old boy inside. The dramatic crash landing, the discovery that the boy was safe at home, not in the balloon. Then comes the Larimer County sheriff's office accusation that the parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, plotted the whole thing as a hoax to try to wangle their way into a reality-show contract, only to be undone when 6-year-old Falcon revealed during an interview that he had hidden himself for hours because "You said we were doing this for a show." Lots of reality show in that moment.

Kids do say the darnedest things sometimes.

If the accusation against Ma and Pa Heene is true, the incident obviously reflects the bizarre extremes of our anything-for-a-Hollywood-contract society. It's just hard to figure out what's most bizarre: That people would concoct such an elaborate and expensive hoax, that they would obliviously imagine that no one would suspect, or that they actually would think this whole thing had legs as a reality show that anyone would want to watch. Then again, after Nadya Suleman the Octomom got her own show, who am I to be surprised? Not that she's taking much audience share with her so far.

Oddest of all is that the Heenes might get exactly what they supposedly wanted, if not precisely in the way they'd allegedly planned. The story of deal-obsessed parents going to extreme lengths to get their moments on TV should be good for at minimum an exclusive People mag interview. And if the case really goes all the way to a conviction and sentence, imagine the mileage to be gotten out of the parents' lives as they concoct a video series taped from prison. Think of the family reunions and the cute things Falcon will say next. Beats Jon and Kate any day.

Photo of Richard Heene with sons Ryo, middle, and Falcon. Credit: David Zalubowski / AP--

--Karin Klein



Comments () | Archives (17)

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please stop covering this incident. you're just giving that idiotic husband/wife narcissistic duo what they want. move on to real news. if you build a news site that gives people real news and nothing but real news, they will come and read and be more intelligent, better citizens for having done so.


Another argument against "reality" television....

The parents are after fame and fortune.

Well, they're infamous now, and they should be forced to pay back the tax payers every penny spent in the efforts to "save" their child....

The parents have already proven themselves to be totally irresponsible by taking their children storm chasing -- putting their children's lives at risk. Now they use them in shameless self-promotion and for profit....

Anyone calling child protective services???

I hope the parents get a cold cell without any television privileges....

Perry Singleton

this family is really making a name for themselves. the video of the 3 boys rapping like the Beastie Boys is funny. When i thought something bad happened to Falcon and i saw that video i was disturbed. i felt really bad for the family. now we find out its a hoax. they deserve to pay all the fines and such. Jail time for the coo coo father wouldnt be so bad either. video of falcon as a Beastie boy with his brothers can be found on www.streettails.com


"Reality" is a misnomer; these shows are anything but “Real”. They are careful premeditated scripting and acting chocked full of unreal environments. Misleading editing and premise. The fact that they bring children into the mix is shameful as there seems to always be some sort of a spectacle of humiliation involved.
All I have is criticism for the networks that have these as entertainment. The shows are influenced because of the corporate profit, that’s the motive. Check out all of the Product Placement not to mention the Instant celebrity status these narcissistic losers achieve. The whole time the masses are dumbfounded and buying into the staging and restaging.


I really was sitting by the news preying the little boy was alright. I think it's SICK!The fact that they would use their children for this. Teaching them it's okay to lie and make false legal reports. Not to mention making people all over the world think this little boy may be hurt. Wow


The parents are probably going to make the poor kid feel like its his fault he got them in trouble because he said the wrong thing in public. They seem like the kind of people who would do that.


Who didn't get help when it was needed because so many rescue resources were committed to finding this boy?





El Guapo de la cuidad de los angeles

What adorable kids. Change we can believe in.


Talk about creepy family values. When I first heard of this incident after it happened, I originally thought that the 6-year-old was hiding from his parents' anger for being a dumb kid messing with their science experiment. Now I know it's Mom and Pop who are the dumb kids in thinking they could pull off this hoax, get their own "reality" show in the bargain, and involve their three sons in the scheme. They will pay a price for it, and part of that price will be their kids being placed in foster care if the authorities decide Richard and Mayumi Heene are unfit parents. And under no circumstances should the Heenes be allowed to even suggest a "reality" show based on their possible time behind bars, as that would be giving them exactly what they want.

Grant U.

The Heenes lure us into their contrived reality as full of gas as the balloon the six-year old was the hook . Their charade is part of the eternal madness of the crowds. We want to believe the bizarre beliefs and media delivers us into that void. So another best seller is on its way to the market and it's a hot item being shopped before either is a reality. "Don't worry. Be happy."

Grant U.


First off, Karin Klein should get the quote right. "You guys said, hmm, we did this for a show." Which could be interpreted as meaning; "You guys said" (the parents said) "that we" (the kids) "did this for a show" (did it to create a big show). Who knows what that kid meant. But if there are other indications that it was a hoax, throw the book at 'em.


An awful show like American Idol is super successful, and anyone really doubts that the balloon boy family reality show wouldn't be watched by millions? The only question is, what network is sleezy enough to go through with it and give them a show? I guarantee people will watch. 28 million people watch American Idol for God sakes!!!

Alan D Ancillotti

What is the reason behind demonizing the Balloon Boy family? Have we as a society gone absolutely mad? Of course, it is easier to find fault with someone else’s parenting techniques than to find fault with our own methods. Sure, these parents exploited their children, but a generation or two ago that was the norm and the government encouraged it. Kids tended the farm or worked in the family business. Nowadays, you can’t get a kid to clean up a room without offering them incentives – and incentives don’t include just a roof and a warm meal.

What a great family, apparently dad took the kids on “many dangerous missions”. This is what childhood memories are made of. Most parents are too busy making a living to include their kids in daily money-making activities. I applauded dad for making everyday a bring-your –child to work day. But of course, daddy is abusive. Look at the pictures of the kids on TV and then look at pictures of kids from our inner cities or even third-world countries. Yes, those adorable kids look abused.

The argument that that whole saga shocked us couch potatoes and that we were some how assaulted and suffered emotional trauma is flawed. After all, were we were really worried about the welfare of that anonymous kid or did we want reality entertainment? We had no link to that child. I contend that our society takes it cues from pop culture. Is it possible that we have got to the point that it is easier to mirror the news reporter’s fake concern than to display what we really feel? How long do you think newscasters practice in front of the mirror before they announce yet another child abduction? Be a little cynical, even though it goes against the grain, it is all about ratings – it is fake. If we were really worried about kids, we would be sending our life savings to the third world to treat kids dying of cholera, malaria and starvation. The truth is, we don’t give a shit about the welfare of Balloon Boy.

Ok, we cannot avoid mentioning the inconveniences and the costs incurred by this hoax. It doesn’t take an economist to tell you that this huge news event generated more money nationally, and internationally, than anywhere near what it cost the authorities to sit around and watch the progress on TV.

Give them a break for dreaming big.

Dan Jeffs

Balloon boy hoax - typical of phony reality shows

Entertainment media celebrity obsession is bad enough, however when the
explosion of the lowest forms of cheap entertainment reality shows exploits
young people and children, it's simply unconscionable programming behavior
on the part of major television networks and cable.

Indeed, it's bad enough that reality shows such as Wife Swap, Big Brother,
and The Amazing Race are not reality, but staged with phony acting. However,
when children and young people are used and mentally abused by producers,
directors and their parents, it's borderline if not criminal child
endangerment, which could result in permanent damage.

The celebrity seduction mentality of the self-absorbed is responsible for
creating the Balloon Boy flying saucer hoax, the Octo-Mom insanity, and
reality show wrecks such as the Jon and Kate Plus 8. It all started with
"Survivor" series on CBS, which ultimately spread to the Internet and the
reckless stupidity of You Tube actors. Surely, it's time to enforce social
responsibility and crimes against children...

Andy B

I am curious...
Did they teach the kid to throw up on cue,
or was that part of the reality?



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