Tuesday, 5 February 2013

What's so real about reality TV?

What's so real about reality TV?
5 February 2013

Now, I’m not saying I’m not a fan.  Because with some programmes, I am.  And I’m hardly a TV purist or a content critic either, but on occasion, I have been given pause for thought.  How real is reality TV really?

I mean seriously!  Are you telling me that not a single member of the filming crew on Survivor have ever slipped a contestant a foodie treat?  Not even once?  And if not, how can they bear it?  Seeing people wasting away.  Adult men surviving on a cup of cooked rice a day, claiming starvation.  It hardly seems plausible.  But then on deeper thought, I’ve realised something else too.  None of those contestants ever get THAT thin.  And the final three supposedly have to outwit, outlast and outplay one another for thirty nine days.  A very, very long time, with only small morsels of food to sustain them for the extreme physical tasks and challenges that are set for them.  So I’m guessing they get the odd little titbit anyway.  Good on you filming crew!

Big Brother is another “gem” when it comes to reality TV.  When it first hit the SA scenes fifteen years ago, and contestants included Bad Brad and Ferdie, I was hooked.  Grant too.  But then again, also in moderation only.  We watched the occasional highlights, but we’d never sacrifice sleep in order to watch them talking nonsense all night long.  In hindsight, it is just so very boring.  What is the big attraction?  Contestants are not chosen for their intellect, looks, ability, etc.  Just a fairly random mix of people.  Though, come to think of it, none of them are hideously ugly, so looks plays a fair part.  As for the intellect thing, I remember  voting sessions on a Sunday night.  The big doors would open and contestants would stand on the threshold waving at their eager fans outside.  The crowd would go wild, screaming and shouting, banners galore.  And on two different occasions banners and placards in the adoring crowd made me laugh.  One was from an eager member of the public, voting for the guitar to evicted from the home.  One rather dim contestant decided that the perfect opportunity to learn the guitar would be in The House.  And how the public suffered.  There is only so many times you can listen to “The House of the Rising Sun”.  And on another occasion a fan held a placard aloft saying “Stephen you’ve been evicted.  The village wants their idiot back”.  It was just too funny!

Probably one of the better shows is “The Amazing Race”, not that I watch it.  The nastiness and backstabbing by contestants grows weary.  And more often than not, the backstabbing nastiness occurs between partners on the same time.  I most certainly don’t have to watch that, thank you very much.

I however don’t think anything anywhere will ever be able to equal the drivel that is sprouted forth on the Kardashians.  It is actually pretty sad.  These girls have created empires and I’m still not quite sure how.  But big kudo’s to them for pulling it off.  I am still unsuccessfully trying to figure out what their talent is.  Or where their appeal lies?  Where did it all begin?  They are certainly worth trillions.  No wait, gazillions (not entirely sure which is more).  They appear to prance about endlessly and delight in being vulgar.  Each to their own, I suppose.  And though we have DStv, I don’t allow Amber to watch their show.  In my opinion, they are not the role models I want my daughter to follow.

Years ago we had the Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie programme, The Simple Life.  Two socialites, coming from very rich families, who attempted to do every day manual labour, liking making their own coffee….. Scintillating viewing pleasure, and I managed to avoid that trap altogether.  Another prime example of girls you do not want your daughter to emulate.

A whole different genre of reality TV is the multitude of programmes dedicated to finding the next big singing, dancing, entertaining sensation.  There’s Pop Idol, So you think you can dance, America’s got talent, The X-Factor, etc.  These certainly have entertainment value, but I find the audition phase too terrible to watch.  My heart just aches for some of those bloody dreadful contestants.  Because some of them are really awfully bad.  Yet why would they willingly subject themselves to the humiliation of being torn apart by the judges?  Some of whom delight in being exceedingly nasty and getting very personal.  It blows my mind.

Still, all of the above aside, one programme I truly did enjoy watching, as it had me spellbound was “The Osbournes”.  I literally hung on their lips and couldn’t believe all of their crazy antics.  The way they spoke, the way they lived, the stuff they did.  In some ways they were just so delightfully normal.  The kids were slightly out of control, yet they had boundaries of sorts.  Ozzie simply stumbled through life, completely helpless without his Sharon by his side.  This hard rocker, who had conquered the musical world, The Dark Prince, had kids who wrapped him around their fingers and controlled him.  And few things brought me greater joy than to hear Ozzie bellowing “Shaaarrrooooonnn!” every few minutes.  She had to solve every crises in his life.  From helping him to exercise discipline over their kids, to controlling their dogs.  And inevitably, in every single episode, he managed to at some or other point, step in dog turd.  Some episodes, more than once.  And this too led him to screech “Shaaarrrooooonnn!”.  It was truly too funny.

Few things must be more invasive than having camera’s follow your every move.  Recording you at your worst, way more often than at your best.  The worst makes for better ratings after all.  I am also a firm believer in the power of the editing room, even when it comes to reality TV.  In the cutting room, they have the final say over who is portrayed as a goodie and who is portrayed as a baddie.  I think the footage that gets cuts, would possibly speak volumes and change our whole perception of some people.

Personally, I feel super relieved to be on my side of the camera and screen.  Perfectly safe in the knowledge that my life is so wonderfully boring and normal compared to some of the stuff that’s out there.  And in other ways, my family and I are just way wackier too.  We could certainly supply some crazy material, for a reality show.

But what to call it…..

Gotta love those wacky Osbournes

And again - you can see how looney they are just by looking at them
 Those Kardashians

Kardashians some more

The Simple Life - there are no words

 The Idols brand has been franchised all over the world - currently in 42 different countries
Jeff is a lovely by-product of Survivor - in fact he may just be the reason so many watch it


  1. The mind boggles.
    Looking forward to the soapie - The Lombards, though.

  2. So interesting - all these wackjobs! Not my thing, although on occassion I too have got sucked in! It's a real teenager interest. We do have the 'Lombard thing'! Lombard or not...who wouldn't want to watch it?!!