I never watch Hollywood-type awards shows because the only thing I hate
more than celebrities is the mind-numbing public adoration of them.
If you spend any time with actors or actresses, the first thing you notice is how little they have to say. In fact, any real substance is inversely related to how much they like to talk. Most of them tend to be intellectually bereft vessels of abject need with over-sized egos as fragile as Tiger Woods' marriage.
Their constant need for approval and attention is usually only matched by their sense of self-righteousness and entitlement. I have a pet theory that the only people with similar psychological make-ups are serial killers, pro athletes, U.S. Senators and brain surgeons.
Fuck, I forgot where I was going with all this.
Oh yeah...awards shows.
Last week, I was watching the Academy Awards on television with a few friends. As we were talking, we realized that none of us had watched any of the movies that were nominated for awards. In fact, a few of hadn't even heard of the nominated movies.
This was surprising for many reasons. Here we were, a bunch of Ivy-educated, successful, cosmopolitan, cultured and sophisticated New Yorkers---yet we could barely remember the last time we'd even been to the movies.
We're all voracious readers. We attend concerts, plays, lectures, art exhibits, and other cultural events. Yet when it came to film, how was it possible that we were so far removed from the cultural zeitgeist?
As the night went on, we began to analyze the depths of our situation and realized that our primary source of entertainment these days came solely from one singular source.
That's right. Give us Jersey Shore, American Idol, Real Housewives, The Bachelor, America's Next Top Model, Top Chef, Biggest Loser, Extreme Home Makeover, Intervention, America's Best Dance Crew, Hell's Kitchen, The Millionaire Matchmaker, Celebrity Apprentice---the list literally goes on and on.
I'm sure there's a Marshall McLuhan scholar out there who can explain
how reality television merely reflects who we are as a society. Surely, our love of these shows connotes something about our values, doesn't it? Are they simply guilty pleasures or is there a deeper subtext to our devotion to them?
Quite honestly, I don't know and I don't care.
meta question I ever ask myself about reality television is when I'm watching "Cops" and I think, "Why the hell is that crazy bitch running down the street in her underwear?"
Don't get me wrong. I'm not judgmental. The creator of "Cops" is actually a close family friend and while I disagree with his view that the show is a revolutionary mise-en-scene study of urban decay in modern America, I am extremely envious of the fact that his toughest daily decision is which private jet to fly to his private winery.
I just can't believe how pervasive reality television has become. More importantly, I can't believe how much I enjoy it.
My favorite reality shows are the voyeuristic "fly on a wall" shows like "Jersey Shore" or "Housewives." Watching people voluntarily auction off their privacy and openly humiliate themselves for two minutes of fame is the television equivalent of sitting down on your couch to watch a impending train wreck. I can't get enough of it.
Personally, I could never subject myself to this level of invasion of privacy. Last year, a television production company approached me about turning MetroDad into a reality television show...starring myself.
First, I told them I couldn't imagine anything more boring in the entire universe. Second, I explained that when I'm by myself, I do things that I would never do if I knew I was being videotaped. I'm not just talking about picking my nose or farting on my daughter's head. Hell, I clip my fingernails with my mouth. I guzzle hot sauce right out of the bottle. And while I'm ashamed to admit it, most of my free time is spent lying on the couch naked reading the New Yorker while eating beef jerky and sipping scotch. Not exactly titillating entertainment.
Aside from the voyeuristic reality shows (which I like to think that I enjoy purely from a socio-anthropological basis,) my other favorite reality TV shows are of the competition-based genre.
Although I'm not the hugest fan of the show, my daughter absolutely LOVES watching "American Idol." It's one of our favorite shows to watch together. As an ardent fan of democracy, I enjoy the populist approach to selection that the show offers. However, I've always been amazed at the show's enormous popularity. Every week, tens of millions of Americans tune in to watch and cast their votes. It's truly revolutionized television.
My only theory on the show's success is based on the fact that everyone knows tits sell. And who on television has bigger tits than Simon Cowell?
People seem to still love "Survivor." Personally I have a very soft spot in my heart for "Survivor." My favorite season was the one where they divided teams based on race. The fact that Korean-American superhero Yul Kwon won the entire competition had an enormous impact on my life. For a brief period, he was the most famous Asian-American person on the planet. For an even briefer period of time, people on the subway stopped saying to me, "You know who you look like? Margaret Cho!"
In all seriousness, I don't know where reality television can go next. I'd love to see networks take things to the next level and start double-layering the shows and cross-pollinating concepts.
Like how about having the "Housewives of New York" take on the cast of "Jersey Shore" in a "Survivor"-type battle of the fittest on a remote island somewhere in the South Pacific? Wouldn't you pay big money to see Kelly Bensimon beat the crap out of Snookie?
Or maybe we need to re-invent the genre so that we're all stars in our own reality show. I have several ideas for shows in this genre. However, the one I'm pitching next season is called "Are You Really Going to Eat All That?" and it involves simply mounting video cameras atop the carving station at The Old Country Buffet.
Anyway, I could probably go on and on for hours about my love of reality television. My theory on why reality television appeals to the highly intelligent alone could take up another 5 pages. Unfortunately, I've got to stop writing right now.
Because Bravo is running a "Millionaire Matchmaker" marathon, bitches!
By the way, please tell me I'm not alone in my love of reality television. What's your favorite reality show? And why do you enjoy it so much? C'mon. Spill it. An inquiring mind wants to know.