Yes, I am a reality TV junkie

3 Nov

“I won’t do it,” I told myself. “I won’t mention the Kardashian divorce.”

And for a while, I held firm. I thought I could do it (after all, I managed to get all the way through August without berating the concept of Women’s Month).  But then the comments started getting nasty about Ryan Seacrest, and I knew I could remain silent no longer. Seacrest is, you see, rather a hero of mine, someone who works incredibly hard to achieve what they want, and is jolly successful at it.

I detest writing bios for myself, but one thing that I always tend to add is that I’m a reality TV junkie.  Of all the things I’ve ever said in my bios, this has garnered the most comments. People are scathing, or condescending, or guiltily admit to liking reality TV too. Reality TV is like the You magazine of the television milieu, no one ever admits to buying it, yet everyone seems to have read articles in it, and everyone and their aunt has an opinion about it.

Here, then, are some ideas about reality TV – and the fans thereof – that I’d like to debunk:

  1. Just because I like reality TV doesn’t mean I like every single reality TV show that exists. Saying “I like wine” doesn’t make one an indiscriminate nana, who will happily chug down the chemical tasting red along with the finely aged merlot. Reality TV runs the gamut from the talent related (my all-time favourites Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, and Ru Paul’s Drag U) to the pseudo celebrity (Girls of the Playboy Mansion) to the ordinary folks in extraordinary circumstances (Survivor, Amazing Race) to the utterly mundane (Big Brother) to the rather horrific (Toddlers and Tiaras, Bridalplasty) to the endearing (Cake Boss) to the have a good old weep into your tissues (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition). Then there are all the niche special interest shows like Pimp my Ride and Masterchef. A plethora of tasty choices, and a couple of nasty flavours thrown in.
  2. Liking reality TV does not preclude the watching and appreciation of other shows, let alone the watching of films, the reading of books, swimming, or indeed any other activity. Saying “I like wine” doesn’t mean you only ever drink wine and you never eat and all you do is lie about in bed all day drinking wine (except in some cases). I am not a realitytvaholic.
  3. There is nothing “guilty” about entertainment. Fascinatingly, after a day of work and parenting and driving about and, you know, LIFE, I crave some entertainment. Sometimes intelligent entertainment, sometimes good old fashioned mindless entertainment. This does not make me a mindless individual; it makes me an ordinary person in want of a little distraction, a little escapism, a little, oh what was that word again: ENTERTAINMENT.
  4. Voyeurism is a natural human tendency.  There is nothing sinister about being fascinated by gossip. We like to observe the foibles of others. We like to commiserate. We like to gloat. We like to relate. So we’ve moved on from leaning over neighbours’ fences or people gazing at pavement cafes. The good thing about reality TV is that everyone involved has chosen to be there.  Kim Kardashian, bless her cotton socks, decided to put her whole “life” on show. Which brings me neatly to point 5…
  5. Reality TV is some of the best scripted stuff on television. Any of you labouring under the illusion that anything is ‘real’ need, well, a reality check. From the psychological profiling of participants to the careful manufacturing of circumstances to the detailed editing, there is nothing real about these shows. This is what makes reality TV more entertaining than most documentaries. This is what makes reality TV more entertaining than most people’s realities. As a writer, I am fascinated by the creation of tension, dramatic twists, the explorations of people’s psyches under extreme circumstances. Season 22 of Survivor aka Boston Rob’s superlative and award-worthy trouncing of the opposition in a flawless game is one of the clearest demonstrations of how an antihero can make a story a success.

There are other things I love about reality TV – that it has a clear beginning middle and end, for instance. That it provides an opportunity for narcissistic twats to reveal their true colours. That it gives us non sporty types things to get worked up about. That it sometimes truly does have the power to make someone’s dreams come true. There are other things I hate about it, but I’ll leave the hating to the many, many people out there who are so good at it.

Returning to Ms (safest title) Kardashian, and Mr Seacrest. Arguments about how the money would be better spent building schools or saving the planet are, to my mind, rather specious. Spending large sums of money on the making of these shows (and in this case, apparently, a faux wedding) doesn’t automatically mean that the people involved don’t give any money to charity, or do any good deeds. Or that they had an either or option, and chose MAKING MONEY MWAHAHAHAHA. And as they are private entities, what they do with their money is really no one else’s business. Unlike, you know, Greece, for example.



2 Responses to “Yes, I am a reality TV junkie”

  1. mollyisthesingerinaband November 7, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Couldn’t you have chosen a better example than season 22 of Survivor and Boston Rob! 🙂 I must say I hated that season….Now season 23 shows promise (if you are not watching it, you must do so immediately!)

    • karenjeynes November 7, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      I truly enjoyed Boston Rob’s clean sweep. But yes, 23 is fabulous – as I said on twitter last night, nothing like a good old fashioned backstabbing!

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