Get Real

I just started a new temp assignment this week (which is why I haven't posted a whole lot; these people are really working me!) I work in a quiet environment; when you're proofreading medical documents and formatting them for the FDA you don't want a lot of distraction, lest you let a curvy apostrophe or a similarly spelled but incorrect word (creatine vs. creatinine) slip past you. But it's not all bulleted lists and drug trials; we do chat. The big topic of conversation today was that So-and-So got booted off American Idol last night, while Whosis got to go on to the next round. At least my colleagues chatted. I merely listened.

Listening to the chatter, I was reminded of an assignment I worked on last year. A group of women were discussing what they expected to happen on that night's Dancing With The Stars. These were professional women with an alphabet soup of initials after their names. No one expects them to go around sprouting 13-letter words, yet I couldn't help thinking that I could have been listening to a break-room conversation among waitresses or department store clerks.

Okay. You've probably guessed this by now, but I think that the reality craze has gotten out of control. It seems like every night is full of hour-long blocks devoted to people trying to find work, people going on treasure hunts, people against the elements on remote islands, people sharing living space, pseudo-celebrities allowing the public to view their lives, people trying to lose weight, pseudo-celebrities trying to lose weight, people trying to get a date, people looking to be made over so they can get a date, households swapping mother figures, or talent shows.

This type of programming has been around as long as TV itself. Even in television's infancy, producers knew that low-cost programming, if it attracted even a modest audience, could be huge money-makers for them. The Original Amateur Hour and Candid Camera both debuted in 1948, as did Toast of the Town, which is better known by the name it took in 1955, The Ed Sullivan Show. They are cheap to produce, and many have high ratings, making them a boon for the networks, who collect hefty advertising fees from sponsors to buy ad time.

As for me, I'll be watching the occasional drama and waiting for Ken Burns' newest documentary on World War II, which PBS has decided to air at the same time the fall shows are premiering. No doubt they're banking on people weary of watching the millionaires with laughingly bad haircuts and know-it-all Englishmen control their little corners of the world.

Personally, I hope they all get Lost.


Gwyneth Bolton said...

I thought it was just me! I'm so sick of "Reality TV" I don't know what to do. Frankly, I don't watch TV to see "real people" act the fool. I can look out my front window and see that. When I turn on the TV, I want to see something that people spent some time and, dare I say, talent developing...