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Friday, June 1, 2007

Reality Television?

Everywhere you look there are new reality television shows popping up every single day. There's a whole new glut of shows coming out soon that have been dubbed celebreality. Among them are Hey, Paula (about Paula Abdul), The Two Coreys (Haim and Feldman) and a show called something like Scott Baio is 45 . . . and Single. (I'm guessing that they felt the title Hey, Baby, I Used to Be Chachi was a word or two too long.)
Producers are no doubt trying to repeat the success of The Osbournes and The Anna Nicole Show, where celebrities' private foibles and privileged lives are placed under a microscope in the hope of earning ratings and maybe even a "comeback" for the subjects. Producers also throw in lots of activities and scenarios that will keep things lively and no doubt make total asses out of the celebs, all for our entertainment.
I'm sure that there will be plenty of other "regular people exposed" shows, too, to take up time and space on what my dad used to call "the idiot box" (except when there was a game on).
I'll admit that I, too, like to watch a couple of reality shows. I enjoy Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, but I grow ever frustrated by the manipulative nature of these shows.
Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want, but I noticed that early on in this season's competition of DWTS on ABC, Billy Ray Cyrus (employed by Disney, ABC's parent company) was frequently filmed from the waist up during his routines, particularly when there were any difficult steps. Also, in a show that likes to pride itself on fairness, John Ratzenberger, in his sixties, was competing against Joey Fatone, half his age, with an extensive background in dance and musical performance (though not ballroom, I know) from his days of touring with N'Sync - essentially a ringer. Past ringers have included Drew Lachey, Mario Lopez, Joey Lawrence, and Stacy Keibler. The fact that, of these, only Drew Lachey has walked away with the gaudy trophy suggests that America has recognized the disparity in dance experience among the contestants.
As for Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, I understand that there is a screening process in each city for who gets to dance before the panel (the part we see) or who does not. It makes sense, of course, as the number of contestants each year increases exponentially with the popularity of the show. What that means, though, is that "dancers" like the unfathomably clueless "Sex" are allowed through for no other reason than to have fun poked at them. Even if there is no screening process, "Sex" received an inordinate amount of tube time given his lack of talent.
A show that I stopped watching after a season or two was CBS's The Amazing Race as I saw that, through daily machinations of the producers, no pair of racers was ever allowed to get more than about twelve hours ahead of anyone else in a particular leg, and that further "coincidences" in the following leg allowed everyone to catch up to even again. I know that the show wouldn't be as interesting if one pair of racers took the lead early on and managed to increase that lead, staying a day or two ahead of the rest of the pack, but I don't like the feeling that I'm being manipulated into believing that the show is "reality." A further manipulation occurs in the editing of what I'm sure are hundreds of hours of squabbles and unfavorable native interactions on the part of all of the contestants, so that some racers come across as benevolent and other malevolent. Notice that the malevolent couples don't win, and since, when the show airs, the race has already been won, you can bet that the editing throughout reflects favorably on the winners.
CBS's crown jewel of reality shows, Survivor, was even accused of allowing its contestants to sleep in hotel rooms and eat regular meals off-camera. I don't know that this is true, but I'll guarantee you that the many union cameramen and producers involved in the show do not sleep on the ground or eat bugs, and I'll bet that a grip or two has smuggled a blueberry muffin from his continental breakfast to his favorite bikini-clad contestant from time to time. I don't really watch the show, but I did see an episode in which a contestant was " banished" to isolation on some remote island for a night. The contestant sat on the beach, looked right into the camera and said, "I've never felt so alone."
I thought to myself, "sure, except for the cameraman, the sound guy, the light guy, the two producers, and the three unfortunate grips who are there to chase away snakes and things."
My point is this: it's not reality. It's not even close. I laugh when people talk about how T.V. has become so voyeuristic. Is it really voyeurism if it's staged?
Do yourself a favor. Turn off the T.V. and go see a play. It will be staged, too, but it's a lot more live. Plus it'll be better for your brain.


ali said...

have you seen the one on Discovery Channel? Survivor Man I think it's called - it's just one guy going out to weird remote places and he sets up all his cameras himself. It's fascinating, really.

erica said...

Jeff said he'd go on Survivor if it was really a survivial game...which means he might have to eat other contestants to stay alive!!!