Just a few thoughts about another institution: Reality Shows. They sure sounded like a neat idea at first, didn't they? It's one thing to capture silly and stupid things on the family camcorder and see it on America's Funniest (Home) Videos. Doing silly and potentially harmful things (not only physical harm, but emotional harm) to one's self or others on purpose is another. Let's take a look at some of these programs (keeping in mind that I haven't seen the majority of them (which no doubt qualifies me to speak authoritatively about them)).
MTV's The Real Life: The granddaddy of the modern genre. Flew under the radar screen for years before someone found a way to make a ton of money with the concept on broadcast TV.
Survivor: Can't believe that anyone still watches this. It just reinforces my belief in the gullibility of a content-starved nation. Seen one season, seen 'em all.
Big Brother: A rip-off of The Real Life and Survivor with slightly more likable cast. Gee, didn't take long before they got contestants to make whoopee.
The Bachelor: I really scratch my head about this one. The most annoying part of this show is when the girls get bumped, they get all emotional and go on and on about how they were falling in love with the Bachelor. Where were these women when I was in college? That being said:
The Bachelorette: Do I really want to compete with a bunch of guys for a woman like this? I'm too provincial (or is it old fashioned?). Call it luck, design, or just that I was a loser, but I never smooched with more than one girl at a time.
Joe Millionaire (and European Joe Millionaire): I refuse to believe that people like this exist. They set the women's movement (or whatever you want to call it) back to the Stone Age.
Average Joe: I saw the last episode of the first Average Joe, and my wife has me hooked on Average Joe in Hawaii. One thing is for sure, Larissa Meek is a babe! Considering the context of the show, she appears to be a real sweetheart. I got a real kick out of the 400 pound "Average Joe", who, when bounced from the show, griped about Larissa not looking deep enough into his personality to discover what a "good guy" he is. Now, I'm sure he is a great guy, but let's face it, the show has a short run. She doesn't have a lot of time to make a decision, and when you have to choose between the keepers and the losers, 400 pounds is a large target. Couldn't it be the case that she did look past his obesity and determined that his personality wasn't her cup of tea? How convenient for him to lay her rejection off on some perceived shallowness on her part. Maybe he was just a schmuck, and weight had nothing to do with it. I've since learned that he has used this life-changing event to motivate a large weight loss, and I'm happy for him. Yes, one shouldn't be judged based on their appearance or weight. Good-hearted people come in all shapes and sizes. Another neat thing is when we find out that some handsome, well-built men are arrogant assholes. Just knock me over with a feather!! I thought being an arrogant asshole was reserved for bitter underachievers like me. I give Larissa credit for seeing through the schmucks (both average and above average), but as of today, I'm guessing that she will pick one of the hunks, not because she is shallow or vain (which she is to some extent), but because based on the final four, the two remaining "Average Joes" aren't very desirable. Just ask my wife.
(Just as Joe Millionaire tempts shallow women with the prospect of a well-heeled boyfriend, Average Joe tempts unconfident men with the prospect of a very good-looking girlfriend. Both seem to be currency. The cynic inside of me says, "Do the math")
American Idol: If I were King of the World, Simon would be taken out back and bitch-slapped. If I wanted mean-spirited put-downs, I could just videotape myself on a good day. How dumb are we supposed to be? The contestants that Simon abuses are awful...you don't have to be a big-time record industry exec to recognize this. I know people who don't watch more than the first couple of shows. Once they get past the talent bashing, the show loses its appeal. Haven't seen it, and won't.
The Mole and bastard child Celebrity Mole: Who gives a shit?
Fear Factor: Look; I don't go through life exploring the most gruesome activities. It's amazing what things people will do in order to make some money...with the exception of getting an honest job.
The Apprentice: I've seen a couple of episodes of this show, and actually enjoyed it. Say what you will about Donald Trump (you'd think wealthy man would have a better self-image and do something about that comb-over) when he whacks a contestant, he does a great job. Of course, if this is what prestigious business schools are turning out, somebody's parents should sue for tuition refunds right away.
My summary is an indictment of television programmers: How about something original? Remember when "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" was the hot show? It started out as a weekly show, quickly went to a couple times a week, and if I remember it correctly, ABC began to preempt Monday Night Football and the rest of their schedule to show it 3 hours a night, and 6 hours on Sunday (I'm kidding). Before too long, we were all sick of it. And it won't be long before the "Reality Genre" becomes boring, too.
Stop trying to top the last show. Give us something different AND better! And you wonder why we're watching HBO. It's not because they can swear and we can see breasts, it's because the shows are better. Really.