“Reality” TV

by C. M. Albrecht

I never expected to say this, but I’ve reached the point where I’d rather watch television commercials than the programming in between.
The commercials strive to be entertaining. Sometimes funny, sometimes not so funny. Sometimes they’re even educational and sometimes irritating, but always they have a structure.


“Reality” shows have no structure. We’re insulted by the very name “reality”. They’re amateurishly contrived. It should be obvious that people can’t be “real” with a cameraman following them around while a director is encouraging them to get in a little drama. They even have writers feeding lines to these participants because these poor exploited people are so overwhelmed at being on TV that they can no longer think on their own. Of course, maybe they never could.
Reality television brings out the very worst people and the very worst in people (producers and participants alike), and that can get pretty bad. They also love to focus on sexual matters to excite viewers’ most prurient interests
Some years ago Jerry Springer appeared in a movie about his own talk show. The movie took pains to show what people will do to get on TV. I think that movie was right on the mark. But enough kudos for Mr. Springer and the others with their shabby afternoon shows.
Can you imagine actually wanting to appear on network television to expose the fact that you aren’t sure which of three men is the father of your child? Can you imagine people not only willing, but eager to exploit this sort of behavior? Who would be so lame as to cheerfully appear on national television and admit that he molested his girlfriend’s little girls?
People who should be dreadfully ashamed of their secret activities or people who in the old days might show up in the freak shows at the circus, now flaunt their oddball antics on TV. The more oddball and reprehensible their antics, the better their chances of getting a show of their own.
We have hoarders of objects, hoarders of animals, grotesquely over-sized families, tiny dwarf families. We have country singers who, unlike most of us happy-go-lucky citizens, suffer abusive childhoods, difficult strained relationships and face daily challenges that would destroy the average person, yet somehow in the face of all this tribulation they manage to keep their guitars tuned up and their chins held high. We have mob families, bounty hunter families that look like, and could possibly be members of mob families themselves. We can visit wild adventurous pawn shops where there’s more action than in a Die Hard flick. We have riotous roadhouses, medical wonders and so on ad nauseam. One feature common to most of these programs is they have a loveable (they apparently think) tough old guy or gal, and of course they feature lots of crying. Lots and lots of crying because life is tough.
It’s really hard for me to believe that the average American finds this sort of programming entertaining. There’s no beginning, no end, and no middle. Just a camera following a bunch of people around and a director getting them into situations they’d probably never get into in real life. We even have a nut case advocating polygamy on TV now. I hear that next season he’ll announce to his “wives” that he’s just been anointed a prophet and will henceforth be known as Bring’em Young.
I realize situation comedies and a lot of the other programming over the years have been in for plenty of sarcasm, but at least we know they’re just entertainment and don’t pretend to be “real”. They don’t make your skin crawl or your blood boil. All they strive to do is give you a few laughs or a little mystery to occupy your idle moments.
I’ve come to the firm conclusion that to be normal is abnormal.
Oh, excuse me. I had a lot more to say but my favorite Geico commercial is coming on.

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