Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pet Peeve in Focus: Reality TV

I'd like to take a moment to talk about reality television. I once claimed I didn't watch any reality television and I hated it, but was soon proven a liar, when a good friend pointed out I am a faithful viewer of The Hills (and all the Laguna Beach seasons that preceded it), and I will reluctantly admit I recently watched every episode of the most recent Project Runway.

Otherwise, the closest I come to reality tv is Iron Chef or Shark Week. Last night at the gym, the premiere of the newest season of Dancing With The Stars was playing on one of the TVs and I thought to myself, sure why not--people love this crap, let's give it a try.

About five minutes into Steve Guttenberg's overeager fancy footwork I had to put my ipod back on. I don't get it. I just don't understand why this show is so loved. This coming from a girl who used to worship Kristi Yamaguchi! I just can't handle the forced drama, the faux European judges, the sequins, the music--the whole thing is painful.

Even worse is American Idol. I refuse to watch that show. I may have once or twice watched a few snippets of it, but I am proud to say I have never in my life sat through an entire episode. American Idol infuriates me. I hate how it is everywhere. Every publication, website, radio station, news magazine show--they all are American Idol crazy. I couldn't care less. And what snippets I have heard of the show this season (thanks, Roomie #1) I can say it just sounds like a bunch of people destined to star in the next Off-Broadway rock musical.

Furthermore, I blame the deterioration of the modern American sitcom on reality TV. Name a show today that pleases audiences the way Seinfeld, Friends, Murphy Brown, and Family Matters used to. Now it's Survivor 35: An Island You've Never Heard of in an Ocean You've Never Heard Of or America's Next Top Hand and/or Foot Model. Apparently these are crowd pleasers as well, but I just don't understand why the American people choose to submit themselves to watching over dramatized endless tests of supposed "real" people to find the champion. Is it self projection? The hope that anyone can can succeed in something and through this victory be revered, respected, and rewarded for their efforts? While this is an optimistic attempt to explain the general public's obsession with voyeurism, I think what it boils down to is that as Americans we are getting lazier and lazier, and reality television is just easy. Easy to formulate, easy to mimic, easy to pull off.

The first scripted television show I watched and loved was The X-Files. Since then, I've found scripted tv, both comedies and dramas, to be like a good book. I become invested in characters, subplots, conflicts, resolutions. When shows go on for multiple seasons it's like having the Harry Potter series play out on screen. And it's never ending. Scripted television, when it's done right, is in my opinion the finest display of true talent--from the actors to the writers to the directors. To keep a good show good for any extended length of time is an impressive feat. Even more impressive is when a viewer, such as myself, no longer has an awareness of the mechanics of the show and remains truly engaged, suspending disbelief and surrendering to the program.

I miss shows like The West Wing, Sex and the City, and Alias. Thanks to the invention of TV on DVD (fun fact: The X-Files was the first show to go to a DVD format, hence the $90 price tag), it is always possible to discover new shows, like my recent Veronica Mars binge. I can't imagine anyone wanting to watch 22 episodes of Survivor in a row. Do people do that? Are there Survivor fanatics who would subject themselves to that?

Anyways, this whole diatribe was really a case for why reality television is terrible and why more people should watch scripted tv, and why those in Hollywood should encourage writers to continue to find refreshing and innovative ways to entertain viewers. And even though I am reluctant for this 90210 Redux, after some more thought, I am pretty excited for a new show to get caught up in, with or without Brandon Walsh.

1 comment:

shelby said...

during sunday drunk-fest there is gonna have to be a long veronica mars conversation!