Friday, October 9, 2009

Television: Reality Bites

So I was spinning yarn for an upcoming project, when I noticed my TiVo had suggested an old episode of "Charmed" called "Witch Wars". I have Charmed on DVD, so I was about to delete it when I thought "What the heck" and watched it. The playlist was pretty darn sparse, and I needed the background noise.

Amusingly, it's an episode about a reality gameshow made up by a bunch of enemy demons. Supernatural mumbo-jumbo aside, it has a few of the most amusing lines in it, despite the fact that it was one of the WORST episodes of "Charmed" ever. Hints that demons should have thought up the concept of reality television, but humans got to it first, etc.

Ever since the writer's strike that started the whole thing (not the last one, the one before) I have been reallllly trying hard not to say too much. I mean, there was a time I wanted to be a writer, so I understand the concept of wanting to be paid fairly for your work. The concept that the studios shouldn't pay you peanuts for your contribution, then make billions on digital internet distribution simply because standardized union contracts couldn't read the future. I get it.

But holy crap, the effects of ONE little work stoppage... in retrospect, I really wish it had never happened.

There are many reasons why I despise reality television. Actually, I'm not a fan of the business model of television in general (don't get me started on corporate advertising and its effects on the American people) but reality television in particular really bothers me. It's voyeurism coupled with coerced humiliation. I mean seriously, if people didn't have the promise of a lucrative outcome dangling over their heads, would they put up with people like Simon, or Donald Trump? That kind of thing happens all the time in private... reality television just takes your most humiliating work moments and shows them to a million people. Or dating moments. Or travel moments. Or dieting moments.

I find nothing redeemable in these shows. They're all means for networks to make a fast buck, and they exploit the hopes and dreams of the American people to do it. I wouldn't want someone to participate in humiliating *me*, so I don't watch these shows. I would much rather observe a well-crafted story than watch someone herd geese on "Amazing Race".


  1. I'm a real sucker for reality television. I think mainly because my heart got broken so many times when my favorite scripted show got canned at the one season mark...I guess I could've just started reading more. Thankfully, I've weaned myself from the more trashy offerings. I used to watch anything realtiy based. Yes, this included "Flavor of Love". *hangs head in shame*

    What about "reality" competition shows such as, Top Chef or Project Runway?

  2. Something like, say "Iron Chef" I can get behind, because these are experts being judged by professionals... food critics.

    I haven't watched Top Chef or Project Runway, even just flipping through channels. From what I hear in the press, though, I wouldn't get behind them either, because it's regular people trying for their "big break" and they get slammed by professionals in front of a large audience.

    I get too embarrassed *for* these people to be comfortable watching it.

  3. Actually Top Chef and Project Runway contestants are usually in the respective fields already. The number of "regular" people on those shows is very small (at most one or two a season). Neither are shot in front of an audience and the critics are also experts in their fields. The best examples of competition reality shows.

    Now Hell's Kitchen, American Idol and America's Got Talent are exactly what you don't like in the genre. I'm totally over those, but I still enjoy watching some of the shows like Whale Wars, etc.

  4. I may have been thinking of Hell's Kitchen instead of Top Chef. I did not know that Project Runway was professionals... it always sounded to me like "Idol" or the others where people had been trying to break into the business unsuccessfully, and this was a last-ditch effort. Interesting.

  5. Oh no...there aren't any "last ditch effort" careers on PR. Many, if not most of the designers are established, already making money primarily from fashion design. Usually, they cater to local customers and want to become more widely known and recognized. Some are costume designers for television and music. Others have already worked for famous designers, but want a line in their own name, a la Micheal Kors.

    This is a talented bunch, whose careers still shine even if they don't win and are not treated to the reality antics that are common to competition-based shows. The drama comes from the personalities and the clothes only.

    I could go on. As you can see I'm an uber-fan. ;)