There is a reality show called The Swan, where contestants are given plastic surgery, dental work, trainers at a gym, and psychological counselling for a month. The idea is to turn someone unappealing into someone attractive. None of the contestants are allowed to see a mirror for the entire month. The winner from each episode competes at the end of the season in a beauty pageant. I find it to be the epitome of shallowness in self-image.
To this we combine the more popular American Idol/Pop Idol. Contestants compete with one another in singing talent. The show is more well known for the nasty things said by the judges (especially Simon Cowell).
Add into this mix a bit of such "unreality" reality shows, such as The Batchelor or Joe Millionaire, where the "prize" is actually a hoax.
The result is Ugly Duckling, where contestants are chosen for their lack of musical talent or good looks. They are prevented from seeing or hearing themselves (no mirrors or tapes) for the month. They are placed on a false path of improvement in both regards, where the producers/presenters/assistants tell them how wonderful they look & sound. To capitolise on the cult of beauty, appearance is rated far more highly in the "competition" than music, as can be evidenced outside of the show by even a cursory glance at the CD's for sale at any music outlet. Each contestant will be readily able to see & hear each other during the "competition," and believe that they can easily win, considering the lack of beauty & talent in their rivals, and how they have been convinced of these qualities in themselves by the show's producers, et al.
It's all just a big prank played on the unfortunate contestants, so that fun may be cruelly had at their expense on television.
The only thing lacking from my equation is how to have the audience not be in on the prank. My ultimate goal with this is to have the prank actually played upon the viewers, but still have them watching the cruel treatment of their fellows for their own entertainment....