I’d love to be able to say that, now that I am of a more mature age, my television viewing has been elevated to watching only the History Channel and other very sophisticated programs. After all, certainly at 50-something, I’ve “outgrown” silly sit-coms. And heaven forbid that I’d lower my mature self to watching any of those tacky reality TV shows….
Yeah, right. I’m a Boomer, and I grew up on such high-brow stuff as “Laugh-In” and “All In the Family”. Sure, I’ve matured. But I love my TV, and Hubby and I really enjoy curling up at night and watching “our programs.”
And reality shows? Oh, yeah, I love them. I refer them as my guilty pleasures. About the only high road I take when it comes to reality TV is that I don’t watch the shows that just follow real people (so to speak) through their daily lives. Shows like “Jersey Shore”, “The Hills”, or “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” are too intrusive, and I feel that simply by watching, I’m helping somehow to skew the character’s realities in a very unhealthy way. In the same way, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” just don’t feel healthy to me (with apologies to my good friends who love the shows). Who wants to accept a proposal from a guy who’s torn between you and another woman, and who’s been kissing on a whole house full of women for weeks? And all the drama and tears over some guy they’ve known for 20 days – give me a break.
But shows like “Survivor”, “The Amazing Race”, “Big Brother”, and my favorite, “Dancing With the Stars”….well, I am in heaven! These folks signed up for a few weeks of torturous competition, so they deserve whatever comes at them, and they are pushed so far out of their comfort zones that it’s fun to wonder how I would fare if in their shoes. It’s fascinating to watch how they react to completely un-natural situations. And yes, that means I love watching them get nasty and cut-throat and self-destructive! Watching someone on “Survivor” who thinks they’re going to rule the island, and then they get blind-sided and sent packing….it’s priceless! And the season that Russell somehow managed to con everyone with lies and trickery (and yes, a fair amount of talent), and then didn’t win the vote after getting down to the final two? The fact that he lost (and was such a sore loser) was the only redeeming factor of that season.
Reality shows are actually the exact opposite – they’re not reality at all. They are shows where people are being put into contrived, difficult situations. It’s like watching lab rats. I’m not sure why some people get so incredibly invested in them. Yes, I did say I like some of them. A lot. But I don’t shed tears over them and lose sleep over them. I rarely vote, with the exception of the last couple weeks of “Dancing..”.
“Big Brother” is tacky and filled with young, stupid, ego-filled individuals who are clearly chosen for the show based on their bikini bodies and odd-ball personalities. It’s so bad that it’s good, if you know what I mean. In the pressure-cooker environment of the small “house” and walled-in back yard, they face competitions and cat fights with equal energy. Frankly, it’s a show that makes me very happy I’m not that young and stupid anymore, which is probably why I like it so much. By week 3, they’re all turning on each other like rabid dogs, and it becomes more like “Survivor”. Lovely!
“The Amazing Race” is a little more high-brow, I suppose. The contestants and viewers get to see some incredible places around the world under the pressure-cooker of some really scary competitions (climbing skyscrapers, rappelling down mountains, bungee jumps, etc.). Competing in pairs, it has a little “Survivor” and “Big Brother” appeal to it. Some pairs work well, and some go into complete meltdown (usually the “newly dating” couples). Interestingly, some of the couples who melt down are also the ones who go a long ways in the race. Their dysfunction and anger seem to give them the extra boost to win competitions, cursing each other all the way. Hubby and I agree we’d never make it – we’re both so competitive, but also such control freaks, that we’d be at each other’s throats, and then I’d be in tears, and that would be that.
I’m shocked at how passionately people are feeling about “Dancing With the Stars” this season, particularly over Bristol Palin’s mediocre-to-adequate performances and the high number of public votes she receives every week. While many suspect a “vast right wing conspiracy” that’s voting for Bristol strictly for political reasons (and they probably are), people seem to forget that there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re acting as if it’s “not fair”, but there are no rules about how or why you decide who to vote for. Try to remember that it’s just a game! No one ever claims that the best dancer will win – only that the dancer with the most votes will win. Marie Osmond didn’t belong in the finals, but her legions of doll fans kept her in there week after week. Bristol isn’t the best dancer by far, but her (or her mother’s) fans are keeping her in there. And if she wins? So what!? She seems like a nice kid, and she is making a lot of progress. This show may actually help her grow up.
More importantly – it’s a television show, people! It’s not like the losers are sent to the firing squad. They get to go on a dancing tour with each other and the pros will get ready for the next season. Will I be disappointed if Bristol wins? Sure. In my mind, Brandy and Jennifer were the two to beat. But if people want to vote for Bristol to prove some obscure point, or because they really like her…well, that’s their prerogative.
Try to remember – reality shows are not really reality, folks! It’s business. It’s sponsors making money from the pleasure we find in watching others self-destruct. It’s us trying to imagine what choices we’d make if faced with the same situations (note: I would not do anything involving spiders). It’s entertainment. It’s a guilty pleasure. But. It’s. Not. Real.