In our celebrity and wealth-obsessed world, Robin Leach, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 76, forged a new path.
He wasn’t the first person to idolize “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” in American popular culture. However, between 1984 and 1995, Leach’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” offered that impulse fresh expression.
Leach shamelessly displayed the decadent accouterments of people whose lives appeared to be so dissimilar from those of the viewing audience that they may as well have been aliens, from those who outfitted a huge limousine to accommodate a hot tub to those who flew in a private jet described as a “$50 million palace in the sky” owned by a Saudi businessman.
‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ was one of several reality TV pioneers. There was the NBC program “Real People,” which aired from 1979 until 1984. Then, in 1992, “The Real World” sparked the development of comparable documentary-style reality series.
The charismatic “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” host Robin Leach passes away at the age of 76.
However, “Lifestyles” was all about luxury and, to modern eyes, total gaudiness. The attitude of the show was a product of its time because it debuted amid a period of increased materialism that was reflected in other TV shows like “Dallas” and “Dynasty.” But unlike other fictional programs that demonstrated that one could be affluent and still have a sad life, “Lifestyles” presented such opulence as desirable and without drawbacks.
Leach stated in a 1990 interview that it is “eminently healthy” to be fascinated by money. The opportunity for the finest of what is available is provided by the American capitalist system. The principles of the good life are repeatedly hammered home in “Lifestyles.” Working hard and you’ll be rewarded is the guiding principle.
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The audience finds it to be enjoyable and engaging, he continued. The audience also picks up on the fact that, despite its flaws, capitalism is the finest economic system. The Russians are only now realizing that. We encourage you to improve your life. The phrase “American Dream is still alive and well” frequently used.
Since “Lifestyles” was broadcast in syndication, it had a significant effect. Depending on where you lived, you could have had the opportunity to watch Leach perform on a regular basis. According to the New York Times, 168 stations and 22 foreign markets broadcast Leach’s shows in 1990. (He was the creator of “Runaway with the Rich and Famous” as well.)
Leach argued that “reality programming,” rather than journalism, was what influenced overt journalistic methods to television interviews. He remarked to People in 1987, “I envision [Barbara] Walters walking with a renowned person through their home every time I watch a [Barbara] Walters program. We practice the same thing on our show.
After “Lifestyles,” additional “look at these crazy rich people” television was made possible by the widespread use of cable TV, which included channels like E! and MTV.
The pop culture expert Robert Thompson of Syracuse University remarked, “All of a sudden they had complete schedules to fill in, and I think they took one look at what Robin Leach had been doing in the older days and they realized, forget an entire genre, you could base this on an entire station.”
According to Thompson, the results of a 23andMe examination of the Kardashian shows, “MTV Cribs,” or any other type of television program will almost certainly suggest that Robin Leach is your father or grandpa. “That show left its mark on everything else.”
Leach later remembered “Lifestyles” as being subdued in comparison to such presentations.
In 2014, he reportedly stated to the New York Times, “with a shudder,” “Now you have Kim Kardashian having her private area waxed on TV.” And he said, “Disgusting.”
Similar underlying ideas to those on Leach’s programs might be seen in reality TV competition shows as well. For instance, “The Apprentice” was built around the idea that Donald Trump is a very successful and wealthy businessman.
And it’s not only television anymore that glorifies such extravagant lifestyles. Social media and the Internet have developed into the ideal distribution channels for the public’s ostensibly inexhaustible appetite for this kind of gawking. Kylie Jenner doesn’t need to wait for a TV show to display her automobiles; she can do so on Instagram.
Leach told The Post in 1985, “I don’t think that the rich should be attacked. “Having money is not a bad thing. There are certainly many things that wealthy people could do that are wrong for the world, but there are also many things that we don’t know they do.
Even though the sentiment may sound extremely 1980s, it feels eerily contemporary when you consider our current pop culture.