Monday, January 21, 2013

Dear Reality Television Viewers

 In 1997, when I was laboring through homework during my freshman year of high school, I would keep the tv on as white noise.  One show I remember watching was a sitcom NBC was showing called Union Square.  It was a terrible Friends clone that the network was desperately trying to make catch fire, but turds rarely ignite.  The plot synopsis for the series goes as follows: Set in a New York diner called Union Square, this sitcom tells the story of a lawyer turned play-writer, an aspiring actress who just got to the Big Apple, an ex-con, an absent-minded waiter, and a neurotic real estate broker.  There has not been that many stereotypes on one set since Judd Nelson did his one man show entitled "Breakfast Pink Say Anything St. Elmo's Please Remember Who I Am".  The most notable actors on this show were the guy that had just quit playing Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Lois and Clark, and bizarre bug eyed character actor Jonathan Slavin who played the wacky waiter.  I feel like he wore a helmet in every episode, yet never was seen near a bike. 

You may be asking, at this point, gentle reader, why I have dedicated so many words to a TV show that lasted only 13 episodes and that I never liked.  For one, I remember stupid things like this, and they rattle around in my brain, knocking out memories from my actual life.  Secondly, I write this to illustrate that I would watch all 13 episodes of this show in an endless loop instead of watching one episode of any reality television show currently airing. 

I will not name many reality TV show by name in this letter, because I fear that by uttering its name, I will give it power it neither deserves nor has earned.  From what I can see, the genre falls into three subcategories, and only one even has a remote silver lining to it.  As a whole, the only real result to have come from any of this craze has been to slowly kill scripted television, and put thousands of actors, writers, directors, and behind the scenes people out of work.  It was a cause of the big writer's strike that almost ended scripted television as we know it, and for that, it has earned it's own place in hell.

I'm not going into how reality tv started, whether it was game shows, or when Survivor got huge.  Those all fall under the "Competitive" sub genre, which has been recently choked with people that think good singing is doing that stupid vocal thing every woman since Mariah Carey does where one word in the song is sung in thirteen different pitches.  Suddenly a song that was written to come in at 2 minutes 30 seconds gives Inna Gadda Davita a run for "Longest, Most Annoying Song Ever".  While I hate these shows, I understand why people watch them.  They are basically sports for people that don't care about sports.

The second subcategory, the one I tend to give a free pass to, are the shows that are about making things better.  "The Biggest Loser" gets people off of their lazy asses, and tends to inspire people to at least try to eat sensibly, or exercise, at least until the next commercial break.  I used to like to watch "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" because it was a show made to help people get better.  It was just really annoying that whenever I would watch it with my housemates in college, some jerkoff would be cutting onions all the time the next room over, or someone would inevitably be cleaning the house, kicking up dust and eye irritants.

The third type, the most reprehensible type, and unfortunately the only thing MTV an TLC have deemed worthy to air any longer, are the Darwin shows.  Don't begin to tell me that you watch these shows because they are entertaining.  You watch these because they are a foundation that you can point to and say "My life is horrendous, but at least I didn't have a baby when I was 15" or "I may be a borderline alcoholic that mentally abuses everyone around me, but at least I know people hate me.  Snooki has no idea."   I call these Darwin shows because if people would stop watching these shows, and networks would stop giving these people money, they would die due to natural selection within a week.  These people tend to barely have the intellect not to drown in a light rain, and we make them celebrities.  We have made it ok to exploit children in awful talent shows, because we love hearing the blithering nonsense the spoiled moron will spout.  We give tanned, barely functional douchebags superstar status and millions of dollars from getting drunk and fighting with each other constantly.

Frankly, it says alot about our society that we are willing to let highly trained actors go without work so we can watch "Amish Mafia" on endless repeat.  We are supporting these people financially while we point at them and laugh, all the while thinking we are superior to them.  You might as well pay a hooker so you can throw paint at her for an hour.  They hate that, and they usually charge more for it.  Put more simply, what if you got fired from your job as a doctor because people would rather go see some inbred hick that got pulled out of the backwater?  He doesn't have a medical degree, but he is willing to light his own farts on camera and will lick anything presented to him.   He will never be able to diagnose your raging case of scabies, but he's apparently passable entertainment, and that is all it takes anymore.  Do you like that scenario?


  1. Agreed. Seen the South Park episode "Raising the Bar" from this season? Brilliant.

    1. I have not. I'll have to check that out.

  2. First, thank you for "turds rarely ignite."

    Second, it seems The Bachelor (and its sick counterpart The Bachelorette) falls pretty evenly among all three categories.

    Competition: Who can be the sluttiest / most pathetic / most conniving?
    Improvement: Will the star's life be made better by a flimflam two-month engagement?
    Darwin: Who can embarrass him or herself the most?

    1. At least when I get married it will be for either a greencard or cash. And I will be upfront about it.


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