Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stop Keeping It Real

Maybe this is how it happened.

Some years ago--more than ten but fewer than fifteen--television audiences must have decided the programs they watched didn't reflect reality, that pretty, witty white people with perfect hair and skin spouting one liners usually with double entendres wasn't an accurate depiction of most of our daily lives. Concurrently, television producers must have decided they were spending way too much money on their product and began devising cost-cutting measures for the near future. This moment, whenever it occurred, was the watershed for reality TV, a stunning fusion of bad ideas apparently designed to ensure Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame prediction would come true.

The producers got what they wanted, a way to make television on the cheap. Unburdened by the salaries of skilled writers or gifted actors, assuming such people actually exist, there was an additional, and perhaps unforeseen, benefit to the trend of reality television: thanks to lowered standards, the rare clever and creative program would now seem like a quaint, anachronistic curiosity alongside its woeful cousins.

Results for viewers have been dubious. True, they watch a lot of reality TV, but whether they've actually seen more reality on TV is an entirely different matter. Mostly, they've seen contrived situations without professional actors or scripts, which is more like "Candid Camera" than reality, except whereas Allen Funt at his best championed originality and humor, reality programs tend to aim as low as possible so the basest emotions are generated: loathing, envy, emnity, lust, duplicity, humiliation, with occasional moments of strained poignancy. This is not true of all reality programs anymore than it's true that every routine on "Candid Camera" was original or amusing, but it does seem to be the general pattern.

In spite of the travesty most such programs are, reality television is here to stay, at least for the short term. Because they save networks so much money, reality shows don't have to earn outstanding ratings to stay afloat, and because there's never any shortage of bad ideas, one poor performer can be yanked and replaced in no time. There are perhaps only two ways of stopping reality TV:
1. A large scale public rejection and revolt
2. An even worse idea

So what's my idea for a reality show? I've never had a good one, although I think the bottom of the barrel may at last be scraped when something like "American Idol Viewer" hits the small screen. In this program, a camera is installed in the home of a reality TV enthusiast and the public gets to watch this person watching reality TV. Now that's entertainment!


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