A discussion of reality television.


Reality television is all the rage these days.  I’ve heard a number of people refer to themselves as reality stars. I don’t really watch a lot of reality television.  There are some competitive shows that are less offensive, such as “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and others too numerous to mention.  I guess “Dancing with the Stars” is one of the shows that depends a lot on competition.  I don’t watch that show.  For one thing, I question their criteria for calling various individuals stars.

I don’t watch most of these shows, but news of them is invasive, so it’s difficult to pretend I know nothing about them.    One of the mysteries to me is that if a young woman gets pregnant out of wedlock, does that make her a star?  Some of the choices are musical performers, actors or athletes, and I can see that they are truly stars in their own right.  They are often up against people who have qualified as stars by being maniacal housewives of some major city.  These are apparently quite popular.  I really don’t get it.  I suppose a reality show could be made out of “The Housewives of Kirksville.”  It would just take finding the most off the chart group of women who aren’t afraid to throw a drink in the face of one of the others.

I keep my television on most of the time.  I sit at my desk and manage my bills and other correspondence.  I’m kind of an obsessive multi-tasker, so I like to have the television playing while I’m working.  The other day Dr. Oz was on.  One woman was on that show allowing photographs of her rear end to be displayed on larger than life screens for not only the  studio audience to see, but to be broadcast as well.   The pictures were specifically to show hideous boils on her buttocks.  I could have simply changed the channel, but instead I turned the T.V. off.

People take their relationship problems on television for examination by the entire world.  There’s a show called “Hoarders.”  I haven’t seen even one episode of this one either, but the idea is to show that they have someone come in to help them organize their excessive clutter and get rid of the collections of clothing, newspapers, trash or whatever makes their living environment sub-normal. Do people really want to be on television that badly?

I suppose I can see part of the draw to be seen on television.  It’s interesting to watch some individuals who can’t seem to take their eyes off the monitor.  I think the camera is called the third eye, and talking heads on news shows can look right into the camera, but actors involved in portraying a story are taught to never look into the third eye.

A while back, Michael Jackson’s now 16 year old son, Prince, ventured into the world of interviewer for “Entertainment Tonight.”  He’s a nice looking young man, but he almost looked as if he was in a trance. He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of that third eye.  It was truly distracting.

It is my understanding that reality television started as a money saving form of entertainment.  Production standards became so involved that the price of a simple half-hour scripted show became prohibitive.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but networks are now paying reality show participants rather large sums of money, so I’m not sure the strategy worked.

I like television.  Some sit-coms are really funny and some writers are quite brilliant.  There are some powerful dramas that can really keep one’s attention from week to week.  I even like some of the design shows that walk their audience through remodeling houses that have outlived their usefulness.  Sometimes the new designs are simply aimed at aesthetics, but more often there is a need to eliminate mold or bad wiring or some other malady that decreases the value of a given property.

I’m a big fan of old movies.  I enjoy the black and white films with some of the great actors who set the bar rather high for their successors.  Lately I’ve learned that Greer Garson made some really excellent movies, so if I see her listed in the cast of a movie, I’m sure to watch it or record it for later viewing.  She reminds me a lot of Meryl Streep, or maybe Ms. Streep reminds me of Ms. Garson.  It doesn’t really matter, they’re both excellent actors.  For my money, it’s hard to beat the classic movies from Hollywood’s golden age.  There are still some wonderful actors, but much of the emphasis these days is on technology and lightening speed action.  I prefer a good story.

I do watch some of the competitive reality shows.  I spent much of my life teaching young people how to sing and perform, so “American Idol” is interesting to me.  Sadly, the cameras seem to be more interested in the judges these days.  The show has run through a number of judges, each with his or her own slant on offering criticism of these young hopefuls.  There are four judges this season.  One is a successful country singer, another sings popular music and truly has a gift for singing.   The other two make me wonder how they were chosen.  One of them has a good deal of experience in the music industry, but seems to utter phrases that he deems appropriate.  He repeats these phrases over and over, referring to the contestants as “dawgs,” which I assume he means as an endearing tag.  The fourth judge is a female rapper known more for her sartorial statement than anything else.  She gives dull and inane comments while constantly stroking her bleached blond hair.  I’ve never really heard this fourth judge sing a note, but given her rather brainless performance as a judge, I will not be rushing to buy her latest recording. 

You may wonder why I watch this show if I’m so critical of it.  I find that the young singers who compete really do grow in their performance style, and some of them are  extremely talented.  The show is a great vehicle for jump starting their careers.

The rule of thumb for television is that if you don’t like a show, don’t watch it.  If people are not watching a show, it will eventually be cancelled.  No one can like or dislike every show available.  I believe there’s plenty one can learn from watching, for example, a court room drama.  Public television offers some wonderful options for viewing pleasure.  I think that the History Channel is also quite interesting.

Finally, I have one more thing to say about television these days.  I am not a prude, but I am offended by some of the things that are aired.  I’m not a parent either, but I think it would be most difficult to screen what children are allowed to watch.  Even shows as supposedly innocuous as “Dancing with the Stars” tend toward vulgarity with their skimpy costumes and suggestive choreography.  Dance can be a beautiful thing.  It doesn’t seem necessary to me that a couple dancing should look as if they’re performing intimate acts.   Soap operas must save a great deal of money on costumes since it is common knowledge that there is frequent semi-nudity.  Even the language that is considered acceptable these days leaves me unimpressed.  One need not search long to find a show that uses inappropriate phrases over and over again.  One of my least favorite is the phrase “Oh my God.”  There may be a time in life that we really need that phrase to beckon help.  I just don’t think it needs to be uttered in every sitcom.  I admit that there have been shows that I find extremely entertaining, but use such phrases ad nauseum.  I’m not fond of censorship, but I think good taste has its value.

I started by generally denouncing the reality show trend.  I hold with my general dislike of this rather shoddy excuse for entertainment, but I reserve the right to pick and choose what works for me.  I also reserve the right to choose whom I consider to be celebrities.  Meryl Streep is a “yes,” anyone called Kardashian is a “no.”