“reality” television.

5 Oct

i suppose i was first introduced to the idea of reality tv when i was in middle school and mtv’s “the real world: new orleans” was my guilty pleasure. who were these fascinating, scandalous, trashy, shameless people? how could i one day become one of them? soon, i was absorbed by the tales of rebellious julie, dramatic melissa, jock jamie, gay danny, innocent matt, and the other ones that don’t matter. soon “las vegas” came, and i was engrossed by the tales of rebellious trishelle, dramatic arissa, jock steven, bisexual brynn, innocent frank, and the other ones that don’t matter. (wait, i think there might be a pattern!) by the time “philadelphia” finished, i was over it. different cast, same plot. over and over. BORING.

around this time, mtv aired “laguna beach: the real orange county” for its first season. like “the real world,” there was drama. there were love triangles. there were stereotypical characters. the difference? while these were also the stories of the fascinating, scandalous, trashy, and shameless, they were the stories of the young, rich, beautiful, and spoiled. (emphasis on “stories.”) these so-cal kids were living the so-called american dream. so i watched the first season, wondering why prom didn’t work on the east coast like it did in california. but to be honest, i grew tired of watching the young, rich, beautiful, and spoiled, and i began to resent myself for giving them even more publicity and money. think about it. why are there so many shows about the rich and the wannabe-famous? in addition to “laguna beach,” we have “the hills,” “the city,” “real housewives of [insert popular u.s. city here],” “the simple life,” “my super sweet sixteen,” “keeping up with the kardashians,” “kourtney and khloe take miami,” and a show about two people i had never before heard of, “giuliana and bill.” the fact that we have these shows and most are still on air is extremely troubling to me. and “bethenny getting married?” HOW IS THIS A REAL SHOW?

if you couldn’t tell, i became pretty fed up with reality tv. between the scripted dramas like those mentioned above and competitions like “american idol,” “survivor,” “so you think you can dance,” “america’s next top model,” “dancing with the stars,” “big brother,” “top chef,” “the apprentice,” “fear factor,” “the bachelor,” “the amazing race,” “project runway,” and “models of the runway,” there was no place to escape from the reality of reality television. we have even stooped so low as to offer “bachelor pad.”

from the sound of it, you would think i loathe nothing more than reality tv, but this isn’t the case. all of the shows mentioned above are cliche. they aren’t interesting to me because we’ve seen it all before. but there are certain reality tv shows that have once again become my guilty pleasure. here are my current top three:

1. “the jersey shore.” a.k.a. “the real world” for self-proclaimed guidos. they are fascinating, scandalous, trashy, shameless people, but they all know it, and they embrace it. the situation doesn’t even hide the fact that he is performing for the camera. but mostly i enjoy it because this phenomenon was an actual part of my long island upbringing. for me, this is real reality television.

2. “sister wives.” oh. my. g. obviously this is an amazing reality television show, because how many reality shows have there ever been about polygamy? (“big love” doesn’t count.) this is totally new and bizarre and an intriguing sociological sensation! and illegal! i can’t stop watching it! or using exclamation points! or writing in fragments!

3. “celebrity rehab/sex rehab with dr. drew.” maybe this goes hand in hand with my absolute hatred for shows that glorify celebrities and socialites and their money, but it is captivating to watch how the mighty hath fallen. and to watch how the not-so-mighty who think themselves very mighty hath fallen. some might call that schadenfreude, but i just call it good reality television.

it appears that the best reality shows are those that have absolutely nothing to do with day-to-day reality at all. grenades and landmines. mormon polygamists. jeff conaway. take note, television stations ’round the world: the best reality television shows are those that are more about surreal life than real life. hey, maybe someone should make a show about that.


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