XXXI. People Who Love Reality TV

“Damon believes everyone who watches Tiny & Toya and/or The T.O. Show would be better off watching an hour of the Animal Planet every week instead.” ~ A Facebook status/tweet from last week.

Dear Reality Die-Hards,

The aforementioned words surely aren’t limited to just those two shows. It rings true in my mind for most all reality television. The Animal Planet, though, is a network full of actual life being explained to enrich your mind. Conversely, there is very little enlightening about most of the ignorance peddled as reality on television these days.

Yet, trust me when I say that I’m not judging you for what you choose to watch. We live in a nation where we’re free to do what we desire to do with your time. Watching television shows served to you on the garbage can lid platter Heatcliff Huxtable showed Vanessa’s fiance is not excluded from those things.

I just wish that you would reconsider your entertainment options for the sake of television as we once knew it. You know, when there were lessons to be learned from what you watched (such as not being foolish enough to bring home a fiance your parents don’t know).

The cast from the first season of "The Real World." I wonder if they thought this brand of television would still be viable 17 years later.

The cast from the first season of "The Real World." I wonder if they thought this brand of television would still be viable 17 years later.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve clearly caught my fair share of this brand of tube. There was some grand intrigue to the first few seasons of “The Real World.” I fell for the first few seasons of Big Brother as well. And watching the initial episodes of “The Flavor of Love” was like slowing down to view the aftermath of a 60-car pile-up. It was undeniable.

Now, though, I’d rather be forced to watch six straight Lifetime movies, save the Fantasia Barrino Story (she did a horrible job of playing herself), before watching an hour of 95 percent of today’s reality television.

Why? Well, it should come as no surprise that the majority of these shows aren’t even real. They’re staged and manufactured to rope you same as Jerry Springer did during the late 90s. Most are low on substance and creativity (save your American Idol-types and spin-offs. But even some of those are too gimmicky). Yet, they’re high on coonery and forced drama because the producers know we’re happy with watching car pile-ups with low production costs.

That’s a detriment to every decent-to-good television show or sitcom currently in production. Good writers and actors come with a premium price that many producers avoiding these days. More and more executives are realizing that there’s less of a gamble with a low stakes reality show that may have decent returns in the ratings. They want to win with the house’s money.

Thus, the more of you watch of Frankie & Neffie’s bojangling, the less we’ll see of decent, yet fledgling sitcoms like “The Game,” which never drew real support from its own network. At this point, though, I figure that you know most of this. And this is why I’m confused.

See, I can’t quite wrap my mind around why so many of you are so devoted to literal mindless entertainment season after season… especially when you know that producers are peddling said hogwash just to suck you in weekly. Why can’t you let a decent show like “How I Met Your Mother” or “30 Rock” watch you instead?

I understand watching a specific reality show that has a niche, a la “Top Chef.” I kinda get why some of you get caught up in Terrell Owens’ show. He is a a real life train wreck that’s been looped into our conscience for 10-plus years now thanks to ESPN. But I don’t understand why someone would watch a second of a second episode of Frankie & Neffie or Charm School.

Aren’t there other avenues of entertainment that are worthwhile, like say The History Channel? I mean, doesn’t watching these shows give you a feeling similar to the one you get while listening to the words of Soulja Boy’s latest song? I don’t know. What gives?

Can you make this make sense because I’m lost? And if you can’t, would you please find something better to watch before the term situation comedy become as archaic as the Tyrannosaurus Rex?

Sincerely,

Damon

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25 responses to “XXXI. People Who Love Reality TV

  1. My biggest issue with Reality TV is that it puts writers (such as myself) out of work. I miss thrilling plots, sizzling dialogue, character development and the time honored “moral to the story”.

    I understand Reality TV is cheap and easy to produce – it’s definitely become “you get what you pay for” programming.

    • “…it puts writers (such as myself) out of work. I miss thrilling plots, sizzling dialogue, character development and the time honored “moral to the story”.”

      @OneChele: Very good point about reality TV putting writers out of work. It’s becoming harder & harder, if not impossible to find all of these things in one show. I miss these things too.

      • @onechele:

        It’s not just writers, but actors. I think Matt Cherry has a big point to some of what he’s been saying recently. There isn’t a younger generation of black actors really getting a good shot the way Will Smith and Co. did because of reality TV. But, like you said, the same can be said about the writers, too.

  2. The only reality shows that I watch are those based around some sort of competition that requires actual skill (singing, dancing, cooking) I don’t count whoring as a skill *cough* anything of love *cough*.

  3. I’ll tell you what… some network can send a camera to follow me around. I bet you my life is far more entertaining and we’ll only need one take of every scene.

    I’m really laughing at your reference to Tasia Mae’s life story. My BFF was an extra in the film, in the American Idol audition scene. He, of course, didn’t know what part of the movie he’d show up in so we sat and watched the whole thing. Like 10 mins into it, I turned and looked at him and said “the fact that I’m still watching this shows the amount of love I have for you.” At the end, he apologized profusely for making us watch it and then I said “It’s a shame that she can’t even play herself…” So imagine my shock when I heard she was AMAZING in the Color Purple. Oprah must truly have an eye for diamonds in the rough ’cause if you can’t play yourself, who can you play??

    I’m torn on the validity of reality tv. The longer it goes, the more scripted it becomes. I have to take a second to give kudos to MTV for always pushing that envelope. They gave us Real World back when shows like Seinfeld were the staple and then they pushed it forward with The Hills (even though they still let RW and RR stop them from being great) and now every cable network wants a show a la The Hills. Anywho, I can appreciate seeing “reg’la” folks on TV, but I do also miss scripted television. Good scripted television. Good black scripted television.

    Wonder how long before it makes a comeback… when we’ve all been on a reality show?

    • @asmith: I’m not sure that it’s gonna make a real comeback. The mess they put on television now is too cheap.

      That’s why even BET has gone full boar with it’s shows, and why the Game has yet to be picked up. They’re scared of the costs… It sucks that that is what it’s up against.

      I won’t deny that they’re aren’t a few decent reality shows. But most of them are recycled mess …

  4. Dude, Fantastic Burrito made my stomach churn after watching that movie. I was embarassed for her and for any other black person watching it because it was just plain BAD. That vomiting scene in the dining room was unbelievably distasteful and repulsive….*shudders*… Ok

    This is how I feel about reality tv. Honestly, I don’t like it, I think it’s like feeding myself ramen noodles all day when there’s steak and shrimp in the kitchen. I can tolerate some shows and I actually kinda like ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’, but moving on. The reason why reality tv is not going away is because they ‘system’ is force feeding it so strong down our throats that we have no choice but to support it. Honestly, if all we did was try to ‘not’ watch it, we’d be changing the station every 30 minutes and we’d have to channel surf in order to find something else. And, the lines of what is reality and what is not reality is starting to blur. Like these shows about ghost adventures and real life murder mysteries isn’t a ‘competition’ for anything, it’s just entertaining to watch and those types of shows have been on much longer than the reality tv phenomenon. So, it’s kind of impossible to not support it when that’s all that we are given. *shrugs shoulders*

    • I think the reality tv takeover is a combo.

      Real World had been around for almost a decade when Survivor showed up. People loved Survivor, and Big Brother and so every network wanted a reality show and so the snowball started.

      We often blame the producers and networks, record execs and labels, but they rarely give us stuff we didn’t initially tell them we wanted and continue to tell them we want. But the catch comes in because, like you say jlbd, if you try to watch non-reality tv, you’ll be flipping the channel more often than not and so while maybe we wanted this 6 years ago and 5 years ago, and even 4 years ago… now that television is inundated with it, how do we say we don’t want it? Especially since this is a win/win for networks because reality tv is so cheap to make.

    • @jlbd: I wish you knew how much I wanted to say Fantastic Burrito… but I thought I’d be nice…

      @asmith: I think we liked those first few shows because they were actually interesting and somewhat innovative. Survivor and Big Brother had true competitive spirits behind them. There was strategy behind them.

      Most of these shows now follow that “kick a person off a week” trend, but lack any substance. And they’re just recycled off the blueprint…

      The networks know this, and they also know that there’s less risk with a reality show. I swear this is why Debra Lee has yet to put a new sitcom on BET. It costs more money than they want to spend…. But Frankie & Neffie? That’s cheap, and there are a slew of people watching them weekly.

  5. One thing that my fiance and I love to do is watch cartoons. We should all just watch cartoon network all day so that our excuse can be that we are trying to ‘escape’ reality…

  6. I can’t stand “reality” TV. I go so far as to turn up my nose to American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and etc as well. I really liked No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and Bizarre Foods. I say liked because we just killed the cable. Kept the internets though. I guess I’m gonna R-E-A-D-A-B-O-O-KAY!!!!!

  7. I’m not going to lie, I enjoy a reality show occasionally, esp one’s centered around sport (Contender, Knight School, Ultimate Fighter, Dream Job, did I mention the Contender?). I enjoy the new “Making His Band” because as an instrumental musician I believe that too many other “musicians” get credit for being musicians and they know not what they are doing at all (mostly vocal musicians). When they eliminated the Gospel Drummer on the first day because he couldn’t read music, that show entered my playlist.

    The reason why these shows get so much spin is because honestly outside of Trey Parker and Matt Stone no one is writing anything that is thoughtful, funny and relevant to today’s situations. That’s why South Park is such a great show. No other show except for Law & Order actually deals with something that is on the nation’s conscience at that time and Reality TV does whether it be racism, tragedy, sexuality, politics, etc…

    That show “The Game” is cool but they need to change the sport. It is a horrible mischaracterization of pro football esp after such shows like “Playmakers” have already done that angle brilliantly…

    • I think the same thing about the Game. I don’t know what it is but all the guys on the show seem really corny.

    • @rvs and oates: IDK, I don’t pay much attention to the football aspect of it. I look at it as though it’s a sideshow of sorts…

      But they did do something fairly interesting with steroids and the idea of a gay athlete in the locker room. And they did both of them with taste… obviously, the show ends up being more about the relationships and has little to do with the professions of anyone involved, which might be something they need to strengthen if the show gets picked up.

      I thought Playmakers was OK at best. There’s nothing memorable from that show’s one season that sticks.

  8. The sad thing to me is that there often ARE some good, scripted comedies and dramas on TV but they just can’t compete with the reality shows so they get cancelled. It seems that people don’t want to watch a show that makes them think, they would rather see a bunch of puesdo-celebrities or regular people walking around doing normal every day things and/or acting a fool. I see enough people doing regular and stupid things in person, why would I want to watch that on TV?

  9. my morning aside:
    damon, i was on facebook and i didn’t know u knew p.watson from the mizz?!?! should’ve connected the dots thru the frat. he & i went to h.s together! my world got .0000056894 in. closer. this just became one more reason why i believe all black ppl really do know each other.

    ok, gonna read your letter now 🙂

    • @nn: I saw that the other day, and wondered what the connection was there. It makes sense now. He’s a few years young than I am, but that’s a good dude.

      And you’re right. I think there are no more than four degrees between every black person in America… OK, maybe three.

      • well it’s strange ’cause why did f/b pic that connection? i’m sure there’s plenty mizz folks on the network, so why p? it took me a min to even know who u were ’cause i was like “i don’t know no scott.” little did i know, imma try to add you. don’t front like u don’t know who i am neither!

        • That’s our one common friend… I think I accepted your friend request sometime this weekend. You need to look at my FB status now… that’s who I didn’t add today.

  10. Morning, y’all.

    I agree w/ @OneChelethat reality TV sets the bar very low for creativity, originality and writing techniques & development.

    I have watched my fair share of reality shows over the years…some good (Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef, Biggest Loser, ABDC, AI, one season of Big Brother & Amazing Race, Project Runway, Survivor (because I knew one of the contestants), one season of Real World (Miami) and some ‘bad’ (Newlyweds/Jessica & Nick, Keyshia Cole, RHOA, Keeping up with the Kardashians) .

    I have always refused to watch reality shows that involved eating disgusting things like Fear Factor. Some of the ‘bad’ ones, I continued watching (although I felt like I was losing brain cells) because I felt as if I had vested so much time in several episodes that I had to see it to the end…lol. They were entertaining in a strange sort of way. I got sucked in every week…especially if it was a show that I watched with my husband or friends.

    I keep hoping that reality TV will have it’s period of popularity and go away but that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. Anyone & everyone has or can get a show. Of course, if the ratings weren’t so high, there probably wouldn’t be as many reality shows, so I guess it’s up to us to see to the demise of the reality TV phase???

  11. While pro-wrestling is scripted, I appreciate all the writing and preparation that goes into the product. WWE produces 7 hours of new programming every week with no off season. Their production values far surpass those of most sport telecasts and other TV shows. Yet, I still have people I know that swear by shows like Frankie and Neffe and Real Housewives say stuff like “Why do you watch wrestling? It’s so fake!” I tell them GTFOHWTBS!

  12. ALL shows on television, reality or not, are subject to someone’s interpretation of whether they are good or not.

    Personally, I think I’m one of few Black people who don’t think The Game was some phenomenally GREAT show to watch every week. Just didn’t like it as much as others did but hey, for those who did/do, it was there for them to watch. IMO, The Game was mindless entertainment, but hey, to each their own.

    I’d prefer reading a book to watching television programs 95% of the time because television just isn’t what it was when I was growing up….

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