Thursday, October 22, 2009


I'm not so sure, personally, I'd be in favor of a "ban" on reality shows.

Because the problem with bans is, once you've banned the stuff you don't like, someone else demands the option to ban stuff they don't like. (And I can see our administration banning a particular network, were they given the chance).

I'd rather see the American public, as a mass, decide, "You know, it's really a waste of our time to watch melodramatic family melt-downs and people who are the modern equivalent of circus freaks" and turn off the shows en masse.

(Of course, I know, the old line from Mencken or Perelman or whomever: No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public).

There are a couple shows that are arguably "reality" that I actually watch: Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs.

The difference is, they have people (hosts) who know something that I feel is worth my knowing, and I especially like Mike Rowe's attitude: "I'm going to showcase these people who normally do the behind-the-scenes, thankless jobs, because they're really important to keeping our society running."

I also occasionally watch some of the "medical emergency" type shows, but even those sometimes border a bit too much on melodrama for me.

What I don't care for - and don't particularly "get" - are the 'famous for being famous' shows. The Kardashians? Who are they, why do they have a show? The Hulk Hogan and his family one? I tried watching a few minutes of the Kardashians but found that it bored me.

(OK, I admit it: I used to watch the Ozzy Osbourne one, or at least half-watch it while doing other things. Because it amazed me that someone could have done as much drugs as he's rumored to have done, and still be vertical and this side of the turf.)

And, while I don't watch them, I do think that shows like "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars" are fun, and possibly give people the sense that "if I work at my interest, maybe I can get good enough at it to actually perform" or whatever.

But I grow tired of the people - and there seem to be a lot of them in this world - who think they deserve a show on television. That they are special and interesting and DIFFERENT from thousands of other people.

Look, if they tried to make a reality show about my life, I realize it would be monumentally boring to everyone except maybe the five or six people who extra-specially love me. But that's the way the vast majority of people's lives are!

What also gets me is the whole manufactured-drama thing. Most people's lives are just not that full of crises. (Or at least mine is not). Most people (I hope) don't go through the day screaming and cussing at the other people around them.

Actually, that's one of my concerns about some of these "reality" shows - people will see them and either assume "that's how people normally live" or decide that "the people on tv act that way, so it's fine for me to stop exercising control over how I act and how I treat people." And we see a further coarsening of culture, more and more parents cussing their kids out in the wal-mart, more and more couples having screaming fits in the airport or somewhere else they have an unwilling audience.

And maybe everyone becomes a little narcissist; everyone begins to assume they are "on," are playing to an audience at all times, that they want people to look at them. And people become, by stages, more and more of Speshul Snowflakes because they have been taught to believe that they "deserve" attention and an audience.

I think this is the "new lottery" - people used to believe that if they won the lottery, their lives would be AWESOME! I think now some people are thinking, "If I had a tv show, my life would be AWESOME!" and people are willing to do criminally stupid things to try to get it.

I hope we, as a culture, have more sense and more backbone than that, that there will come a point where we will say, "You know, this is really stupid" and stop granting the attention whores their fifteen minutes of fame.


Dave R. said...

Not that you would want to, but a good reality show could be Ricki listening to the tepid excuses and the whining from underperforming students, and then imitating the non-empathetic host of "The Weakest Link."

The quote certainly sounds like Mencken or Perleman, but I believe it is from P.T. Barnum.

The Fifth String said...

Aside to Dave R.: I've heard it attributed to Mencken (but I can't vouch for it). P.T. Barnum was, of course, famous for "There's a sucker born every minute."

Back to the rest of Dave's comment: this would make a GREAT quiz, contest, or internet meme. What shall we call this show? My suggestions:

"America's Got Special Snowflakes"

"Big Fat Hairy Deal"

"Dancing with the Special Snowflakes"

"Survivor: Underperformers"

"American Whiner"