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The Reality Paradox

by The Plain Simple Tailor

I’ve always hated reality television. This is mainly because, being a writer of a sort, I feel like the entire phenomenon exists to kill scripted television. I assume this is because ridiculous reality TV is much cheaper to produce than scripted shows where you have to hire actors, set design, writers, directors and all kinds of other folks.

I contend, though, that reality TV should be called something else, because most of these shows have nothing realistic about them. “Reality TV” would imply that people are followed around by cameras in their everyday lives. Some shows do this, like many of the reality shows on the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel. But tell me exactly what is “realistic” about Survivor or Big Brother or any of that shit. Who, in the course of their regular lives is placed on a desert island in a “tribe” of some sort, with “immunity challenges” or something, and the last person standing on the island is awarded some disgusting amount of money. There’s no reality in this, folks.

I’d like to see one of these shows about a coal miner or a factory worker. The end of every episode could be the guy saying “Another day without an accident, and I still have a job.” Then, you could see the guy’s family life, as he tries to figure out how he’s going to pay bills on his low wage, and whether or not he can feed his wife and kids while trying to put money away for thr kids to go to college, since college tuitions will be billions by the time they are of eligible age.

Or, follow a jobless person like me around, as you go through the process of applying for things, and then have daily self-esteem destroying moments as you wonder whether you’re ever going to be able to work again, and what you’re doing wrong to make the unemployment go on this long. That’s a hell of a lot more realistic than a bunch of pretty people selected to live in isolated environments and generate fake drama due to being fed alcohol. (I’m looking at you, Real World.)

Why don’t we use reality television to follow a new teacher in an inner city school district around? Maybe if people outside of the teaching business saw how hard that job is, they would stop bitching about how easy teachers have it.

I was watching last week’s Amazing Race with my fiance when something caught my interest. The teams were in South Korea and one of the challenges called for them to go to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Several of the groups were interviewed and expressed discomfort with being in such a politically charged area. I couldn’t help but laugh, considering how coddled and protected the participants are. I would have considered it far more realistic if one of the groups was shot at for straying to close to the border. That’s good television.



11 responses to “The Reality Paradox”

  1. Avatar SusanJBigelow says:

    I love the idea of following a new teacher around in an urban district. That is some seriously difficult stuff! I had a hard enough time in a rural district as a new teacher, many years ago. I guess it wouldn't have made exciting TV to see me grade papers for hours, never clean my desk, and go quietly bonkers from the stress.
    Actual reality makes depressing television, I think.

  2. Avatar disperse says:

    I agree, between heavy-handed editing and the coaching the producers may or may not do there isn't much "real" about reality television. Even if they aren't coached, the stars of reality TV must change their behavior based on the ever-present camera crews.

    • Avatar The Tailor says:

      Absolutely. Many of them admit to it once the cameras are off. If heard interviews with The Miz (one of the Real World people, now a pro wrestler) who said that anything the camer crews considered important was subject to multiple "takes." That's reality for you.

  3. Avatar stationsam says:

    I'd watch that show about miners; I think I real reality check would wake some people up.

    • Avatar The Tailor says:

      I heard talk about a miner show after the whole Chilean miner thing. I'm sure it'll be sanitized to high heaven. A miner show show my way would be a wake up call, though.

  4. llxt llxt says:

    It's funny- I remember my first idea to blog about reality TV-it was so long ago ! I thought it was a fad, but now-at least a decade later, the genre is bigger than ever! It's yet another sign of the decaying intelligence of mass society. Of course, the irony is that these shows, which are supposedto be "real", are only useful in the metaphorical sense . Tailor: I think you'll find enjoyment if you really, critically analyze the next reality show you watch… What are the emotional implications of the island? What does that torch really stand for? And why, for the love of God, does some super nasty fight always break out…?

  5. Kail Kail says:

    Tailor, I'm sure you know how I feel about reality TV.
    I dig some "reality TV" mostly of the Dirty Jobs, Man vs. Wild type, but Survivor, Bachelor, Big Brother, and all their spinoffs and lousy half-cousins, these all just pretty much annoy the beJesus out of me.
    Now don't get me wrong: I got hooked on American Idol season 2 like millions of other people. But American Idol is a GAME SHOW, not reality TV, and despite its overt evilness, it's just plain funny when Simon calls someone shitty. I haven't watched the show in a long, long time though, and without Simon I won't even stop on it for five seconds.
    The public's decline in intelligent choices in good storytelling versus convenient escapism is practically Vonnegutian (pronounced Vonnegooshian, that's my story and I'm sticking to it) meaning Vonnegut predicted we'd all be this stupid by now, and with the advancing technology and ease of viral video, it's hard to think we'll get any better.
    I'm on a high-horse about all this TV stuff, but we should remember that in the old days, when television was quite young, funny late night shows, game shows, and variety shows led the way rather than good scripted TV. And in all honesty, there are plenty of old-school TV people who think the sitcom ruined TV long before reality TV ruined everything.
    Either way, I miss freakin' M.A.S.H. And Cheers. And All in the Family. I miss The X-Files, too.
    Shows like Lost and House and the showtime entries like Dexter and Californication keep me hoping…but I think it's a losing battle.

  6. Avatar The Tailor says:

    Only you would bri g in Vonnegut, bro. He does have a point, though.
    I share your virew that HBO, Showtime and cable shows are saving TV.
    I haven't seen a lot of Curb, not having HBO, but it's on my list of TV stuff to Netflix.

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