Published: 4/26/2012 12:00:00 AM
How real is reality TV?
Reality TV sure isn’t what it used to be.
I remember first being fascinated with America’s Most Wanted years ago — with the idea that people would allegedly commit the most heinous crimes such as molestation or murder and attempt to hide in everyday America.
To hear the backdrop of host John Walsh’s personal struggle for justice in the disappearance and murder of his son, shows his determination to do right by the people who had been so wronged by crime, was an enticing factor that drew me to the show each week. Walsh essentially became an advocate for the rights of victims.
The original episodes of The Real World, years ago, seemed a lot more about young adults trying to figure out how to make their way in the world. Sadly, today seems more about young adults trying to figure out how to make out in the world — not at all the same.
Even as a youngster, I spent many Saturday’s watching wrestling with my grandmother. We watched performers such as Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper. I’m disheartened when I watch wrestling with my sons now because it’s not at all the same. There seems to be more phoniness, more fakery about it now, or maybe, I’m less disillusioned. Who knows? All I know is I’d rather not watch it now.
I don’t think the average TV viewer knew decades ago that the advent of reality TV shows would mean less originality on TV, less opportunity for writers to leave an impression on entertainment and pop culture.
I’m not at all saying that I am anti-all reality shows. My husband and I spent several Saturdays, long before the housing market crash, watching a home makeover show called Flip this House, with spouses Armando and Veronica Montelongo. It was fun to see how the team could change an ordinary house into an extraordinary one. And then, there’s Wife Swap.
I’m fascinated to watch this show to see how “the other half” thinks. Those people who, to me, do not have mainstream thoughts, and for all intents and purposes, have figured out how to physically live by a thread in society, but not within it’s norms. For instance, who raises a child without discipline or structure? What parent chooses to wait on a child, like restaurant waitstaff as opposed to teaching that child self-reliance and personal responsibility? Wife Swap provides a glimpse into fractured lives.
For a couple years or so, I avidly watched The Amazing Race, completely enthralled with seeing contestants come to terms with other cultures and geographies around the world. I was also taken aback seeing people learn to push themselves to physical and mental extremes, to finally find their own tenacity and capacity for growth. To see someone grapple with a lack of self-esteem, but ultimately become a believer in themselves, had me tuned in week after week.
But, did I eventually drop The Amazing Race like a contestant who didn’t make it to the end of a challenge in time? Yes.
Because there is the realization that too much reality TV becomes too much TV period. There isn’t a fine line between watching to learn and being dumbed down by watching. So, I’ve let other reality shows like America’s Next Top Model and Biggest Loser go.
I refuse, however, to part with Survivor. It is my standing, 8 p.m., Wednesday date, along with my sons. From its first airing a few years ago, to a blindside vote last week, I still watch.
I am a true Survivor fan.
Reality TV is like a country buffet, to me — partake of what you will and leave the rest to those who have varying taste.
Isn’t that American?
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