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So how will balloon boy’s parents be punished?

The Heene’s have aptly lived up to their name as one of the heinous parents in the TV amusement park 15-minute celebrity ride. But as prosecutors begin to mull over possible criminal charges, what can the Heenes expect by looking at others who have also taken a whirligig spin on the same 15-minute celebrity ride? Folks like the octuplet mom, Oliver North, Gordon Liddy, Mark Fuhrman, Rod Blagojevich, or Sarah Palin, folks we love to hate but just can’t stop staring at?

Here’s a entrepreneur’s list of the dire punishments ahead for the Heene’s:

  • Book deal: $2 million, plus an appearance on Oprah (where she’ll dump on them plenty but insure ten thousand or more book sales).
  • Movie deal: $2,500,000. Count on it. David Hasselhof plays Richard Heene.
  • Talk show: $100,000: You’ve heard it here first: Rupert Murdoch is already talking to this guy. No, I have no evidence. But Murdoch probably hit the phones as soon as this thing began to blow up.
  • Reality TV show: $1 million. It seems unfair, because old man Heene concocted the whole ball of beans in order to snag a reality TV show, but Heene has demonstrated beyond a doubt that he’s one of the best publicity generators of our time and that his family is as dysfunctional as they come. Two years with the Heene’s will make Ozzy Osbourne look like, well, Ozzy and Harriet.

    Heene understands contemporary media extraordinarily well, in the same way Glenn Beck and Jerry Springer do. “Reality” in reality TV (this includes news and political commentary) has become “pornography,” in the sense that it’s appeal lies solely in its shock value, it’s traffic accident quality, in what Linda Williams in mock-poetic language calls “the frenzy of the visible.” We are disgusted by the excess and immaturity, but, dammit, we can’t take our eyes off of it.

    But, like pornography, the more we consume it, the more shocking it needs to become to hold our attention. Reality and political commentary has gone just as gonzo as pornography has been forced to become. It used to be that Bill O’Reilly could shock us with a well-crafted tantrum or blue-collar insult, but Ann Coulter amped it up several decibels of shock, going gonzo in places that Bill would never go. Now Ann Coulter looks positively meek and rational next to Glenn Beck and his Death Star emotionalism and paranoia. Richard Heene really understands this about contemporary media success; as such, the Heene’s are really just the first part of a wave of miscreant stunts that will lead to celebrity millions.

    I once was involved in refining a pitch to Fox for a series called “Tow Truck Mayhem,” which, if it had been produced, would have followed around tow truck drivers as they confronted angry motorists who had parked their cars without caution. This was “Cops” without, well, the cops.

    And it was also bad behavior to the highest power.

    I did a stunningly good job refining the pitch (I’m really great at show pitches), but in many ways, I’m glad it didn’t get bought by Fox. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do to the rest of you.

    That Fox would take such a series seriously demonstrates why Richard Heene and his family are going to make out pretty nicely, thank you. And each time folks like me, Richard Heene, or Glenn Beck increase the bad behavior a power or two, the next person will raise it another power.

    Until, that is, we, the idiots watching this stuff, get tired of the Richard Heene’s and Glenn Beck’s and turn the damn TV off.

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