Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Alternate Reality of Reality TV

I'm not a fan of reality tv for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I adore a well written, scripted show.  I love Parenthood and The Big Bang Theory because of how well the stories are told, the tight writing, the timing of the actors and actresses.  I long for the days of shows like Sportsnight and My So Called Life.   Hell, I even miss M*A*S*H.

These days, most of the network prime time programming in inhabited by different incarnations of crime dramas, occasional sitcoms and lots of reality shows.

There are some great shows on cable, though.  I do have to say that.  And I'm whining about not having HBO anymore.

Back when Survivor and American Idol began, the reality market was new and interesting.  We had a chance to peek into the lives of other people, see what they did under pressure, watch as dreams were shattered, hearts broken, wills tested.  The nature of reality television  assumes that we all have voyeuristic tendencies.  Relies on it, in fact.

We love to watch people triumph, but we love to watch them fail too.  We cry when they yell move that bus, and when the girl we were rooting for doesn't get a rose this round.  We watch these shows because they make us feel better about ourselves, force us to be grateful for what we have, allow us to feel morally, intellectually, physically superior to other people.


Why do we need to watch the supposedly real lives of other people?  I don't really have an answer, truth be told.

I've stopped watching them for the most part.  Some of them I will admit to still watching occasionally, like Storage Wars (yes, I know it's rigged, but I LOVE the characters) and Undercover Boss (because it's one of the few shows that I think actually works to change the perspective of the owners and CEOs).

I stopped because it became obvious that as time wears on, and more and more of these shows are created, they are getting more and more outrageous.  The shows crave the fringes of society, the outliers, then throws them on the screen as if they are portraying any actual kind of reality.  Never mind the fact that most of them are scripted anyway.

I have a grudge too.  I was filmed for the show Maternity Ward when I was in labor with my oldest daughter.  With an older child who ended up in the NICU, and her being premature, and me having gestational diabetes, it was sure to be a cliffhanger.  Then I ended up not screaming and thrashing around even though I was on pitocin without an epidural.  And the baby was totally fine.  Instead of putting us on the show to portray what happens every day, and that moms with complicated pregnancies can have uncomplicated deliveries, we were passed over.  We weren't interesting enough.

The vast majority of pageant moms aren't like the ones on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  Sure, there are some Dance Moms that act that way, but certainly not all of them do.  Sister Wives isn't a normal portrayal of Mormon families, or even polyamory or polygamy, but there are those out there who buy into it completely.

All the shows about teen moms bother me.  I can understand the point in wanting to demonstrate to teenagers the reality of pregnancy and parenthood before you're ready, but doesn't the mere existence of these shows glamorize it?  Sure, it's hard and all, but you could be on tv!

The shows like Hillbilly Handfishing make me wonder.  I mean, the average American has no interest in ever doing this, and yet we want to watch it.  Why?  Is it just to make fun of people?  What the hell is wrong with us?

All the dating shows, including the Bachelor and it's spin offs, boggle my mind.  Though I'm sure that a lot of it is casting and editing, the shows portray most of the participants as superficial, selfish, horny people.  Which is fine.  I mean, there sure are a lot of those in real life.  However, the idea that true love can be found in front of a camera is laughable.  How many of those couples are still together now?  Not many, but the producers have made a fortune.

The Biggest Loser is one that bothers me endlessly.  It breaks my heart to see these people, obviously desperate for help to lose weight, being forced into clothes that show off every lump, roll and stretch mark for weigh ins on network television.  It has to be humiliating and mortifying for them.  I can't even imagine.  Shows like that fool people into believing that losing 18 pounds a week is healthy or even possible without having a personal trainer screaming at you constantly and a chef preparing all your food and a doctor supervising every step.  It's possible to encourage healthy weight loss without embarrassing people for ratings.

Don't even get me started on The Kardashians.  I will fully admit to loving Khloe, but I have a hard time with this attention starved family hanging on to these shows as if they really have anything to contribute to society. Never mind the fact that the only reason anyone even knows who they are is because Kim made a sex tape.  I'm not sure I'd be okay with riding those coattails personally.

I keep hoping that the reality trend will end.  Then, the cynical part of me knows that these shows are cheaper to produce and involve less risk for the producers.  They don't have to come up with pilots and pitch them to networks over and over again, go through months of filming just to see if it will fly.  All you need are a few cameras and an editor.

The writers strike in 2007-08 sure didn't help, nor has the trend of actors all threatening to walk out on successful shows unless they get paid x number of dollars per episode.

I watch tv to escape reality, as do most people.  Not to see women get fitted for bras.

Yeah, Double Divas is really a thing.  I wish I was kidding.

I'm going to go bang my head on a wall now.

Then figure out how to get HBO back.


  1. Cause if it's real and trainwreckish the rubbernecking kicks in...partially scripted or not. I watch some. Don't go out of my way though. Also I taught myself not to rubberneck by accidents because I myself have been hit too many damn times. Here's the "reality" show list in m'house:
    Teen Mom 2
    Housewives of Beverly Hills
    Housewives of New Jersey (Teresa's nut bags)
    Mob Wives
    Shahs of Sunset
    Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

    ...if it's on...:D

  2. Reality tv, imo, is the downfall of society! Some people watch this crap and want to be just like these tv "reality"characters! I live a few miles from where Dance Moms is filmed, the producers make it out to be some posh place when in REALITY it's a cinderblock building in a basic neighborhood. And the Bachelor, oh please! How embarrassing!!!
    I am happy to say I have never seen an episode of Teen Mom or Honey BooBoo.
    Read a good book instead of watching this mindless drivel.

  3. Thank you for this! Oh Kelly I thought I was the only one! People always look at me like I'm from Mars when I say I don't like reality TV. The only of those shows I have ever watched is "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Restaurant Impossible". I too love a well written show, and am so sad that there aren't more on tv. Now that we don't have our satellite, I do miss having more choices.

    Two shows that I've really enjoyed are "Necessary Roughness" on USA and "Being Human" on SyFy. Both are well written and have humor mixed in with the drama-something that is very important to me!

  4. Hallelujiah for Netflix, I'll just watch the season of something that is really mind stimulating like Lost Girl from Scyfy and Walking Dead.

    But seriously - reality TV's only draw is that they make the rest of us think
    1. My parents weren't too bad
    2. I really don't need so much stuff
    3. There is such a thing as embarassing yourself from drinking too much,
    4. Be careful what you do, the camera catches everything.

    Thanks for the great reminder on why we keep the TV off most of the time. Happy writing!

  5. I don't watch much TV. I used to love Scrubs, but that's over. We just discovered Raising Hope on Netflix, but that's all I've watched lately. I can't figure out why people enjoy reality TV. I'm sure it's for all the reasons you state, but I just can't get my head into it. My mom likes shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor. My best friend likes Toddlers and Tiaras. If I had to watch anything, I'd probably pick the talent-based shows, but even those are too fake for me. And I don't like watching people get hurt. Embarrassing yourself in front of millions? No thanks.

  6. I haven't even heard of half these shows! But, you know the saying - truth is stranger than fiction. The problem is, though, that these shows are not the truth. They are what the editors want you to see.

    I have noticed a lot of the hillbilly type shows lately and I do wonder if it is just us wanting to make fun of other people. It's sad. I do like shows that are are competitions, though. At least people are working toward something.


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