In Defense Of Reality TV

I’m the type of person who needs their media to match their mood. Real Housewives is prime television for a weeknight during dinner. Saturday morning pairs perfectly with a great documentary about weirdos. And nothing beats a 20/20 or a Lifetime movie on a Sunday night. So this weekend, when I just wasn’t in the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton mood, I threw caution to the wind and caught a showing of God Bless America.

The premise of this movie wraps around our main man, Frank. After being laid off from his mundane 9-to-5 job and finding out that his migraine might be something a little more serious, Frank considers putting an end to it all. He re-thinks, however, after deciding that he didn’t deserve to die, but the spoiled little decked-in-pink rich reality star does. He sets out with a vengeance and a teen girl, who plays the Bonnie to his Clyde, to teach the world how to be nice by killing off every mean person who crosses their path. You can’t help but love the irony.

Considering the reality-star identity of his first target and the general disgust for all things frivolous running as a theme through the film, I started to think about society’s view of reality TV. I mean, I love it! But it gets such a bad rap. And, in the name of full disclosure, I don’t just love it- I work in it, too.

Yep! I work on reality shows. My job deals mostly with working with talent or contestants. It makes for some great stories and it’s a pretty fun job. But even within the TV industry, it has a bad rap. Yet, millions of people watch these shows every week and, in this day-and-age, they really make the TV world go round. So why the notorious status? Well I have some theories…hear me out.

First thing’s first.

It’s Really Not So Black And White: 

Mistake number one is lumping them all together. I mean, there is a virtual cornucopia of sub-categories under the reality TV umbrella. We have competition shows, makeover shows, docu-realities. We have hidden camera and prank shows, remodels and paranormal stuff. How can you group them all together? So maybe you don’t like hoax shows, that doesn’t mean reality TV is bad. Maybe you think Basketball Wives is frivolous, but you still might be into The Amazing Race. Can we at least agree that saying anything negative about ‘reality TV’ is a sweeping generalization?

Reality Shows Pay For Scripted Shows:

When stocking your wardrobe on a budget, we all know it’s best to spend a little here in order to splurge a little there. Maybe you pick up a standard bedazzled cheetah-print blazer from Goodwill on the cheap so that you can splurge on a really cool (and expensive) pair of moon boots. That’s how networks deal with TV shows. Reality shows cost much less than scripted shows to make. Like a quarter of the amount. So having a Wipeout allows ABC to pay for that Grey’s Anatomy plane crash. And Bachelor Pad is definitely helping out with those Desperate Housewives‘ salaries. You get the idea.

They Aren’t Making Us Dumber/Meaner:

I mean television, in general, is no Mensa study guide, but I think reality TV takes the hardest hit for being the ‘dumbest.’ I can’t help but draw some comparisons, though. This week’s episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey centered around a deep family feud. Interestingly, the plot of this week’s Blue Bloods was also centered around a deep family feud. What’s the diff? Yet, reality TV is consistently labeled as ‘trashy.’ Trust me, there are plenty of ‘trashy’ scripted shows. I watch them all, too.

I’ve always really liked the saying “If video games make you violent, does Monopoly make you a millionaire?” I personally think it’s good to sit back and have a good laugh at in the comfort of your own home. I mean, that person wanted to get laughed at. Reality shows have been around for decades. Every single person that appears on one knows what they are getting into.

And if you are mean, it’s just because you are a mean person. Plenty of nice people watch a lot of reality shows; they don’t make you mean.

It’s Not Taking Away Jobs:

One argument that comes up over and over is that reality shows take jobs away from actors and crews. Actors? Maybe, I guess. But every reality show has a crew, too. A director, camera people, grips, accountants… the works. Not to mention more than a few big name actors have gotten their start on a reality show. Ever heard of Emma Stone? How about Jennifer Hudson or Nicole Richie? They all got their big break on reality shows. Plus, what about my job? I mean, you don’t want me to have to lose my job and make a choice between paying my water bill and keeping my HBO, do you? (Of course, I would choose HBO.)

They Aren’t Fake, They’re Situational:

This seems like a non-issue to me. I mean, it’s entertainment. What do you expect. I, personally, work mostly on competition shows and I can assure you they are extremely legit. When there is money on the line ($1,000,000!) it becomes a legal thing and that ship is air-tight. The producers squeeze out drama by taking normal people and putting them in abnormal situations. The reality is that they are real people. If you like them, it mean you really like them.  I’ve never seen a contestant that I worked with change who they really were, usually they are just extreme versions of themselves.

And lastly, I just can’t help but think of all of the things I have learned from reality shows. This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • The Amazing Race taught me that not all cab drivers are created equal.
  • America’s Next Top Model taught me to tooch my booty.
  • Survivor taught me that I’m really an indoor girl.
  • Big Brother taught me to sleep with one eye open.
  • Real Housewives taught me how to not age gracefully.
  • Bethenny Ever After taught me how to be a mogul.
  • American Idol taught me that Randy Jackson loves dogs.
  • Top Chef taught me what Foie Gras is.
  • Real World Seattle taught me to never run out and stop someone’s cab just to slap them in the face. Good Lesson.

Now, everyone grab the remote, turn on some reality TV and tell it you’re sorry.

I wanna know: What are you’re thoughts about reality TV and what have you learned from it?

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