” not surprisingly begins its farewell season Wednesday awash in sentimentality. Not only do former high-profile contestants and winners make early appearances, but there’s even a rare look-back glimpse of original co-host Brian Dunkleman
during the opening clip package.
In a way, though, the real nostalgia should be for a show that becomes such a massive, shared cultural experience, and that casts this kind of enormous shadow. Because while the genre will continue in various forms, each time TV bids farewell to another one of these mega-hits, the screen seems to get just a little bit smaller.
This century, certainly, has been heavily defined by reality-tv sensations, starting with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
” (which actually made its debut in the summer of 1999), followed by “Survivor” and “Idol
.” Along the way, there have been plenty of bright-shining flashes in the pan (see “Joe Millionaire
”), but few to