2004-09-28

"Reality" Survey


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I must come clean as an avowed hater of "reality" TV. I have been catching some reality-ness and have been dying to comment. Still, I hold that much of the "reality" genre is contrived and anything but real, unless too many saturate themselves with this stuff and start believing that irresponsible, wanton, drunken behavior is the order of the day.

MTV's Real World: This was the one I had previously hated the most. What could be less real than taking adults, putting them in a house they'd likely never be able to afford, and setting them up to where they don't have to do any meaningful work for several months?

But, I've caught the beginning of the current edition and have become ensnared in the various plot lines. Some of my favorite moments so far ...

MJ making it a point to seek out the token gay guy in the house, Willie, and let him know that he's ok with him being gay. Nothing like singling out someone who is different to make a point of saying you aren't going to discriminate. By the way, later, MJ woke up to find that Willie had brought over some friends and complained that "Gay Pride, America" was in his house.

Karamo, the surprise, manly gay person on the show, morally objecting to the girls sharing beds with the guys when the A/C went out. Does the practicing homosexual have any other morality tips for us?

Then there was Willie, hooking up with old friend Daniel. "We've both been single for a while and we don't want to rush things ..." and then five seconds later ... Willie (to Daniel): "Let's go to bed." Then we're treated to shots of the "girls" in the shower and getting into bed. Don't worry ... they blurred out the butt-cracks.

So, while I guess the Real World premise is not very real, it's kind of like taking a hamster and putting it in a cage with a big wheel and water tube in the corner, or putting fish in a tank with a plasitc castle on the bottom. It's not real, but it makes it easier for someone outside to observe and learn from the behavior of the animals.


Growing up Gotti: This show follows the ex-wife and children of the late, John Gotti, former boss of the Gambino Crime Family. I stumbled on this one by accident one day, which is a surprise. I am fascinated with the Mafia and all things gangster, so, had I caught wind of this, I would have sought it out ... and been totally disappointed.

The sons are total brats. I'm not talking just a little spoiled. These guys have money, celebrity and hardly any checks on their behavior. They are over-the-top and out of control. And then there was Carmine's tantrum when he found out his brother Frank had used his hair gel - it could just as easily have been Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

They say that, though the movies make gangsters look very wise, in reality the mafioso, in reality, are stupid. If the Gotti offspring are any indication ... this is totally true.


Wifeswap: At first I was really uncomfortable with the title - not finding even the play on words to be that amusing. But the first show was totally fascinating: they took a very orderly, organized mom who is the brains of a very anal-retentive, quiet, predictable household and swapped her out with the mother from a disheveled, messy house with all kinds of animals running all over the place. And it's not like the mom's are just hanging out ... they get to lay down the law and make changes. It was good.

The organized mom established bedtimes, got rid of the bulk of the animals, cleaned (a lot!) and got the dad to act like a parent. The play-friend mom got the uptight dad to break out his guitar, bought a kitten (unheard of in this house!) for the oldest son and generally got the household to loosen up a bit!

It was really interesting to watch the interaction and reaction to all of this.


One thing that makes me even more skeptical of reality shows: many of these shows are 30-60 minute weekly highlights taken from a 24/7 situation. You know they are chopped, sliced and diced to play up the drama, the irony and the surprising. Not only are these situations not always representative of reality, I'm guessing that much of what makes TV isn't even faithful of its representation of what actually happened in the house, on the island or wherever.

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