Why TV Is Garbage
Why Isn't There Anything Good On!
When was the last time you were channel surfing and didn’t pass by at
least a dozen stations because you weren’t the least bit interested in
what they had to offer? If you belong to the group that enjoys Jon and
Kate Plus 8, you might want to go up to the address bar and type in
TMZ, or just click on another blog to read, because you won’t enjoy
When exactly was it that television decided to scrap the idea of programs that are truly entertaining and/or actually make you think for yourself? I believe the beginning of modern reality TV was The Real World. In 1991, (long ago, when they played music and long before “The Hills”) MTV had an idea to put together a half a dozen twenty-something roommates living in luxurious digs in New York City. MTV was truly ahead of its time. They had stumbled across the formula that most “reality” television shows follow today: young, sexy males and females + confrontations involving every possible controversial situation = Train Wreck Television. These controversial situations include, but are not limited to: sex, infidelity, race, fighting, religion, eating disorders, profane language, alcoholism, drug use, sexual orientation, and a sprinkling of anything else illegal. You may be wondering why I renamed reality TV “Train Wreck Television.” It’s pretty obvious, in that, they hope you are horrified enough to slow down and rubberneck or even pull over and watch. The Real World was, and still is, a huge hit within MTV’s target demographic in it's around the world journey. It's been everywhere from San francisco to Sydney Australia. The video below doesn't have sound for the first 15 seconds, my apologies...
Diverstiy at Its Finest
Ratings might have had the execs at MTV excited; it was the bottom line
that truly had them jumping for joy. You have to actually PAY actors
on a sitcom or any other scripted television show. Now while producers
tend to push and even re-film situations in reality television, it’s
not technically scripted. This means that they technically don’t have
to pay the stars of the show, which means more money to go around for
everyone else. This is the very reason that most of TV has turned to
the reality format within the last decade. It’s become the American
way. Fittingly, the new season of The Real World, that will begin
filming shortly, is in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
Now reality TV has been around in some shape or from for many decades, there were never more than a couple shows on the air at once. There were a few shows that dabbled with the concept throughout t the 90’s, and it the form was growing slightly, but it never really caught on until just before the end of the 20th century, with Survivor. This is she show that showed the major networks that this type of television could get HUGE ratings. It’s a shame, because I actually enjoyed that first season. It was a unique concept that we’ve all talked/heard about from time to time: getting stuck on a deserted island. It had democracy, games, huge arguments, alliances, confessionals, eating weird stuff, faked isolation from the outside world, prizes, and the last man/woman standing grand prize. Each of these ideas has become a staple of all the current reality show categories. There are a few shows that seem to belong to all of them, but at their core each show belongs to one of four groups.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional game show. I grew up watching The Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, The Price is Right, and The $25,000 Pyramid along with others. I still thoroughly enjoy a large majority of them today and don’t clump them in with reality television. And as I said, I enjoyed Survivor when it first came out.
Simply Thought Provoking
What I don’t enjoy is a dozen or more seasons of Survivor, Big Brother (if Survivor and The Real World had a baby), The Amazing Race, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and America’s Next Top Model. I have no idea who’s watching these shows. Ratings say that millions are every week, so what are the producers going to do? Pump out season after season until they can’t anymore. Stars of these shows are typically fresh faces, not at all like the next category.
A little biased here: I hate these types of shows. These “celebrities” have recently inundated the entertainment market. But that’s the thing, they’re not celebrities you’d actually WANT to watch. If Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise made a show, I’d watch. But instead, Kathy Griffin, Paris Hilton, Ozzy Osbourne, Hulk Hogan, and Kim Kardashian are all over the airwaves. Turn on E!, Vh1, MTV, Bravo, hell, just about any cable channel, and you'll find your fix of mindlesss celebrity watching. The Anna Nicole Show can at least be partially blamed for Anna Nicole Smith’s death. Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson have also blamed their former series as leading to their divorce.
If You Hand Her Spam, Her Head Would Explode
Even though they weren’t really celebrities until the ratings told everyone they were, this is where I lump shows like The Hills and Laguna Beach together. These shows are rumored to be scripted and sure as hell isn’t anyone’s reality, but just like The Blair Witch Project masqueraded around as real, these count as reality. Apparently if you’re the offspring of very rich parents you get to star a television show.
This is also the category where I put the abomination known as John and Kate Plus 8. Currently, you can’t pick up a magazine, go to a website, listen to the radio, or pretty much anything else but hang out in the woods without hearing about this show. Kate is famous because she spit out 8 kids and Jon is famous because he’s the husband. That’s it! Fully-grown women around the nation want Kate’s haircut and US Weekly can’t get enough information about their possible divorce. Why do we care about these people? Why do we care about any of these “celebrities” for that matter? We shouldn't be looking up to or idolizing these people....
What Do You Mean, Exploitation?
As it says in the title, there are two definitive subcategories of improvement.
The first of two definitive subsections in this division is self-improvement. Any show involving weight loss, plastic surgery, makeovers (clothes/make-up), rehabilitation, manners, and swapping of family members finds a home here. The Biggest Loser stands head and shoulders above the others. It sort of skews the borders and can be put into any of the four categories. It fits the game show format because there is a definitive winner at the end after an arduous journey, but it can be said that everyone’s a winner due to what it teaches everyone involved. At the center of The Biggest Loser is the great message to get and stay healthy, and that’s a message America desperately needs. What America doesn’t need is The Swan. Are you not happy with how you naturally look? Then just get a ton of plastic surgery until your stretched-out face and body looks how you want it to. Other examples of these types of shows include Celebrity Rehab, Tool Acadamy, Supernanny, and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy.
Now it’s obvious that the second subsection is Home Improvement. This one’s pretty simple. If your show has someone decorating or renovating/building a home or vehicle, you belong here. The first ever in this section was This Old House in 1979 featuring Bob Villa. Modern incarnations include Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, While You Were Out, and Pimp My Ride. Now our final category….
Yes, I named this after the old game hosted by Chuck Woolery. If you’re trying to hook people up on dates, finding them love, competing for love, or anything else similar to that, this is where you go for it. The Dating game pioneered this concept in the 60’s. Producers what confrontation or something to do with sex, it’s basically straightforward for any viewer. This is an old, but relatively limited section.
I also placed the show Cheaters here. Now anyone’s that’s seen it knows there isn’t any love here, but there is a ton of anti-love. It IS about relationships and the instances of infidelity that occur within them. Modern examples include Blind Date, Room Raiders, Elimidate, Next, and Parental Control. MTV usually dominates this area today, and let's say that brains aren't exactly needed...
That sums up where you put all these so-called reality shows. We all know these are NOWHERE near reality, but millions and millions of us continue to watch. One can only hope that this trend is just a fad, but it’s a fad that’s lasted for over a decade now. It’s infiltrated every part of the very psyche of pop culture. I crave the not-so-old days of good TV dramas and sitcoms ruling the airwaves. While they’re not dead, they’re getting harder and harder to find on free television.
I’ll leave you with this, turn on HBO and Showtime if you’re interested in quality original and scripted programming. The Tudors, Weeds, Californication, Dexter, Eastbound And Down, True Blood, and Curb Your Enthusiasm are just a taste of what they have to offer. I swear this is not a commercial for the two cable networks, it’s just “reality” (I’m sorry, ha) that basic cable and network television doesn’t have much to offer anymore. I’d love for another Seinfeld or Cheers to come along, in fact I’m hoping for it. For the record, I thoroughly enjoy The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother on CBS on Monday nights. I’m such a sell out....