Ok. I’m just going to come out and say it. I still love reality TV. Surprised? I didn’t think so. And I get it. Must not seem like much of a stretch for a self-proclaimed shallow person to confess to whiling away her time watching real people, in the best case scenarios sing and dance, and in the worst, lie and cheat to their perhaps worthy, perhaps not, opponents. I mean what could be more relaxing than sitting in your warm and comfy den, munching on a bowl of low-fat, organic, non-gmo, gluten free, and I’m guessing kosher, Boom Chicka Pop (with real butter) while watching 16 people share a rather meagre bowl of rice topped with a protein that just moments ago was crawling beneath their feet? Or tagging along in Costa Rica as Mike and Henry amicably manage to reconcile their very different expectations and settle upon, what turns out to be the winter home of their dreams.
But make no mistake. Even I have to admit that not all reality TV is created equal. I long ago gave up on what is now known as the “Bachelor Franchise” when I tired of the rather poor outcomes, not to mention the not so questionable morality of the whole thing. After all, the break-up rate of made for TV couples compares only to that of those “forever” junior high romances that last until your “one and only” shows up at school wearing a terribly mismatched ensemble and you realize you could never have children with someone who mistakenly thought orange and red was a “thing”. And honestly, I never watched the Kardashians or any of the Housewives because, well really, who cares? After all, not a one of those people have “outplayed, outwitted or outlasted” anyone. And none of them have ever been winners.
Now I know the world isn’t made up entirely of shallow people but I must not be the only fish in this sea. These reality shows are a lot like my family. They have longevity. Take Survivor. Now starting it’s 40th season we first found ourselves watching a naked guy inappropriately prance around in front of some rather shocked and dismayed teammates, not to mention millions of viewers, over 20 years ago. I’m guessing a lot has happened to you, I know it has to me, over the past 20 years but not a lot has happened to Survivor. Other than the addition of a few twists and a hidden idol or two, Survivor has pretty much stayed the same. People come to an Island, walk around in their underwear, play a few games, make some plans that work and some that don’t, most get voted off the Island, miraculously having found the rest of their clothes, and depart with a few bitter or less frequently, encouraging words for their remaining tribe mates. The last guy standing gets a million bucks. And this happens over and over again. Aside from that money thing, if I called you up and you told me your life was as boring as this sounds, I’d suggest you go get yourself a hobby. So the question that comes to my mind is why the heck do people (including me) continue to watch? You can only imagine that trying to answer this question has required more than a little introspection on my part. And let me tell you, your guess is very probably as good as mine. But because I’m rather invested in this dilemma at the moment and you are most likely not, I’ll give it my best shot.
Let me just say that the talent (or not) related shows are the low hanging fruit on this quest. First of all, for those who don’t know, there’s nothing new under this sun. These shows have been around forever. I mean who doesn’t remember watching Frank Augustyn make his television debut on Tiny Talent Time? And I’m pretty sure just about everyone can name at least one celeb whose first step on the ladder to fame and fortune was made on the Star Search stage. Still, over these many years, we seem to be captivated by the prospect of watching seemingly ordinary people’s lives transformed overnight. Perhaps there’s that little niggle that makes us think if they can do it, well why can’t we? Of course in my case I can’t sing or dance, I’m certainly no acrobat, have never performed a magic trick or been shot out of a cannon, so you won’t find me on that stage anytime soon. But I can watch others take the plunge. So I do. And apparently many of you do too.
It might also be reasonable to surmise that viewers get some sort of satisfaction from figuring out which new house, beach bungalow, private island or “I just won the lottery” mansion that heretofore complete strangers will finally decide upon, having completed an exhaustive search of three, or at the most, four potential properties. I suppose the premise is that if I can’t buy a bargain island somewhere in the South Pacific I can, at the very least, live vicariously through those who do. And I am quite sure that most of us believe if we just watch enough people make incredible cupcake creations, that somehow, through osmosis, we too will soon be using our home kitchens to churn out these tasty delights by the dozens. Enough to keep us glued to the tube? So it would seem.
Admittedly I’m a bit more flummoxed as to why people continue to tune in as 16 or so complete strangers enter a house and agree to have millions of viewers watch as they eat, sleep, shower, fight, lie, cheat, cry and do who knows what else. Well we do know but we would never admit to watching. Honestly. Seems to me that most of us could just attend a family reunion for that kind of entertainment. Minus the “who knows what else” stuff of course. At any rate, not only is big brother watching us but clearly we have been watching Big Brother as it is now in its 20th year. Which brings us full circle to the people stranded on those islands. This time around Survivor has brought back 20 of its previous winners. But here’s the thing. At the end of what has been billed as a groundbreaking season there will be only one winner. And that means all of the other 19 winners will now be losers. Hmmmm. What time does that Kardashian show come on?