Channel surfing one brain-dead evening, I switched back and forth between Design Star on HGTV, and America’s Got Talent, both reality shows. My only quality choices were, um, apparently non-existent.
As I watched Design Star, a home design competition with stylists, decorators and designers coming out of the woodwork to get their own decorating show on HGTV, so they, too, can willingly be prostituted around by visiting each other’s shows to host a multitude of niche subjects in home design, investment income (read basement apartments), rental markets, property de-virgining, house hunting, curb appealing, and bangs for somebody’s bucks, it occurred to me that every single contestant, every single one, was quite attractive. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that the more I thought about how pretty the men and women were, with perfect teeth and flawless skin, the more I realized that the contestants are picked as much for their photographic potential, as their talents and skills. All the women were slender; all the men wore muscle shirts – some with scarves, but all with admirable pec’s and Pearl Drops teeth. In this episode, there were 3 women and 3 men. One Black, one Hispanic, two blonde, two gay. Now do we honestly believe it just happened to work out that way? For some reason, the cookie cutter approach to picking a well-rounded cast makes me think of a pasta maker (though I have never, and will never, make pasta by hand), where dough is fed into a machine and comes out in perfectly cloned strips.
America’s Next Top Model, at least, is about modeling, so the ‘girls’ have to be tall, skinny and pretty, or at least photogenic. Though I personally cringe every time someone calls a 23-year-old a “girl”. Because Tyra helps aspiring models build a useable portfolio worth thousands of dollars, I forgive it (and love it), though the shoots get more outrageous until they’re almost dangerous. But who are we to judge the hardships of models?
Reality TV is no more real than Santa Claus, or the wizard in Oz. And we all know what happened to poor Dorothy and her friends. (She overdosed on poppies and was stalked by a witch. All for naught! In the end, she had to rely solely on herself.)
From a network’s financial standpoint, reality TV is a boon because it’s a cheap ‘win’. Only the professionals get paid. The participants, falling over themselves and others, backstabbing each other in the name of a monetary prize or a job, are entertaining us, veritably for free! They are acting, but they’re not being paid like actors. What actor have you heard of that will perform 6-8 weeks, cooped up in a twin bed beside their competition, away from their families, all for $50k or $100k?
Where is the real in reality TV? Put a camera in front of anybody, and regular behavior goes away. I guess when they come to film me sitting at a desk typing for 8 hours, then rushing off to stop-and-go-traffic, then home to cook dinner, look at the mail, and collapse into a chair (or get back on the computer), then I’ll consider it to be reality. And I’ll still turn it OFF.