By Samantha Clark

It looks like the cost of fame is pretty steep these days – especially for the Heene family and their helium balloon fiasco last week.At maximum, both inventor Richard Heene and his wife Mayumi could be facing six years in prison and $500,000 in fines recommended by their local sheriff.

The parents, who had been featured on the show Wife Swap, had the nation convinced that the youngest of the couple’s three sons was trapped in the father’s homemade helium balloon as it took flight Thursday across the Colorado skies.

When the balloon landed, there was no sign of Falcon Heene, now dubbed “Balloon Boy,” inside.

Sunday, their plot for reality TV fame was revealed.

I remember watching the coverage of the makeshift UFO cut across the sky and thinking it looked like something you could purchase at Wal-Mart on clearance in the party section.

I am by no means an expert in aviation, but seriously questioned how that balloon held a 37-pound 6-year-old who seems allergic to sitting still, unless Colorado has exceptionally strong winds unknown to the rest of the nation.

After quite some time spent sitting on the edge of my seat, the balloon finally landed. Like I said, there was no Falcon in sight – not in, around, or anywhere near the vicinity of this science project gone awry.

We were later told he had been hiding in the attic the entire time.

Judging by the way the little boy behaved Thursday night during a live interview on CNN, he has to be horrible at hide-and-seek, Duck-Duck-Goose, board games or anything else that requires one to stay in a set position for any period of time.

So to say you couldn’t find him is another red flag.

Further into the interview, Falcon is finally asked why he didn’t come out from his hiding place when his parents called for him. He looked up at his father, appearing slightly confused, and said “You guys said we did this for the show.”

The reaction from dear old dad as he obviously tried to gloss over the statement left me with the same confused look his son had.

Clearly, little Falcon wasn’t paying attention when the Heene family rehearsed for this interview.

Though there’s some humor in the story, the fact that it was a scheme with the aim of earning a television show is nothing to laugh about.

Seeking fame isn’t a new hobby, but “reality” shows give “the average Joe” better access to it.

With that, “average Joes” are going to greater lengths to have a primetime listing in a TV Guide.

What happened to wanting to be known for something worthwhile?

It’s no fun to be known as the guy who used his family as a stepping-stone for 15 minutes of the limelight.

Still, by continuing to tune in, viewers sort of give the green light for this reckless behavior to continue. Without the absurd drama, who would watch it?

As for me, I’m beginning to prefer my drama more and more in a 30-minute sitcom format – one that features better acting and fewer tax dollars spent.