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Network hopes for surgical sensation

If you dare, switch on the TV any weeknight and witness the reality show era's last, outrageous hurrah before it slides into the demise it has clearly earned. How could it not after recent entries that include facelift surgery put to music and Monica Lewinsky hosting a dating show with men in 'Phantom of the Opera' masks.

Of course, just before the May sweeps a year ago, I used the 'O' word Ñ oblivion Ñ in speculating about the future of such shows. But the death knell still hasn't sounded, thanks to the success of 'American Idol' and 'Joe Millionaire,' and the staying power of 'Survivor' and 'The Bachelorette.'

So I'll try it again: By next fall, dramas and comedies will be making a bigger comeback than Arsenio Hall on the new 'Star Search.'

In the meantime, you've got to at least check out the newest of the reality shows Ñ 'Extreme Makeover,' at 10 p.m. Wednesdays, on ABC. That way, you can tell your grandchildren that shows like this really did exist and people really did watch.

Surely, one of the them will be Michael Jackson, who figures to check out the myriad of facelifts, tummy tucks, breast enhancements and nose jobs coming to prime time and then break down in tears.

Here, all surgical procedures come out just fine Ñ beautifully, as a matter of fact. Throw in some new clothes, hair and teeth-whitening (courtesy of 'the best aesthetic dentist in L.A.') and you've got a before-and-after show that rivals 'Monster Garage' and 'Trading Spaces.'

Based on a special last year that nabbed surprisingly good ratings, the series could serve as an infomercial on behalf of Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Garth Fisher. The fast-working Fisher wields his magic and transforms a barber with misshapen lips and a stay-at-home mom who looks like she hasn't slept in several weeks into nothing less than knockouts.

The show makes it seem easy; there are no gross close-up shots from the operating room table.

When the stunningly gorgeous housewife finally goes home to face her family with rejuvenated skin, a new nose, no droopy bags under her eyes, new hairdo and new clothes, they applaud. Her husband seems to be in shock Ñ probably thinking that he needs to do something with his looks or he's liable to lose her to that guy on 'The Bachelor.'

I wanted to despise this show and everything it stood for Ñ that being nothing. But hey, it's reality.

And the reality is this: If you only watch one televised liposuction this year, make sure it's 'Extreme Makeover.'

Pete Schulberg is the host of 'Portland's Morning News' on KPAM (860 AM). Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..