Reality TV, really?

Posted On: Monday - December 2nd 2019 10:27AM MST
In Topics: 
  TV, aka Gov't Media  Curmudgeonry

According to Peak Stupidity's sources, such as commenter Autochthon under our post about fast food customer service, I'm not "loving it", there are still "reality shows" on the boob tube ... errr idiot plate , errr, OK, TV. I do remember the beginning of this new frontier in television stupidity back in roughly the year 2000, but perhaps a couple of years before that.

It does make sense financially speaking for channels or networks that have become 1 in 150 or even more, meaning the money spent by cable customers and advertisers* is spread out much more thinly than back in the day of CBS, NBC, and ABC only, with occasionally PBS with lots of snowflakes ... no, not these Snowflakes, just the white speckles of signal noise all over the B&W screen. (We put the antenna way up on the roof and often rotated a knob on top of the TV and we LIKED IT!) The Nazi-war channel, storm-stories channel, or deluxe coffees channel can't all have those big production teams that Walter Cronkite, Ed Sullivan and Opie Cunningham had behind them. Yeah, then, how about just having real "unrehearsed" people doing their thing, and we can just film a lot, edit it, and, as George Costanza says "there's your show"?

If you can get people to watch these reality shows, then the possibilities are almost endless. You can have a show about any interest, such as the cooking and restaurant management thing that our commenter mentioned with Chef Ramsey. That could be on a cooking channel or H&G TV. It wasn't so much the case 20 years ago when this idea surfaced like the deadliest catch in the Bering Sea, as there were still only a couple of dozen channels, but now each niche channel could have a reality show that fits its audience. Bold Baristas of the Barrio could be on the deluxe coffees channel, Hispanic version. The Weather Channel has its Storm Stories which makes sense when anyone can get the weather forecast for anywhere in the world in 10 seconds on his phone, as related in "The TV Mythbusters vs. Science & Engineering". (BTW, that post is mostly about a show in which pretend-engineers do exciting destructive testing, not quite a reality show.) The History Channel, were it to switch back to history again instead of showing people selling other people used shit, could try showing some Soviet war-mongering instead of the jaded Nazi fare, and have a reality show - Kurrent-Era Kommies featuring antifa grungy goons with bike locks and make-shift spray-can flame-throwers.

All that said, I don't like reality shows any more than the rest of the crap on TV. The first problem I have with them is that they don't represent reality very well. The ones that seem to be the most popular, just from my hearing about them, are the shows that feature hard-working men in dangerous occupations like The Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, etc. I will admit to having watched 2 or 3 of each of these. I suppose that if one follows the same crew around over many episodes, one could get hooked on one of these shows, as a much-more-manly version of a soap opera. One feels the need to find out what will happen next week.

I don't mean to make fun of the work of the people on said shows, or the viewers - the soap opera crack indirectly brings up one of my points though. On the shows I've watched, there is always some bit of drama**, with a feud going on between the Captain and one of his hands, for example. What I believe is that, after first spending 2 days sick as dogs, with the deck hands kindly providing slop buckets, the TV crew members get their sea legs and start filming anything and everything that happens. It's not the day of film anymore - memory is damn near free, and I don't doubt they could record whole multi-week voyages in high resolution from multiple cameras.

Not much besides hard work and sleeping happens, and there aren't any females on the boat to make this show into a real soap opera or porn video, one ... Anyway, over 3 weeks or so, there are bound to be some testy exchanges or harsh words when things get rough or business is just not panning out well on this particular trip. The show goes on for what, 1/2 hour or 1 hour? You take 3 weeks of all-day filming, and you edit all the parts that don't show men calmly doing their jobs and being a team. You put them in some sort of order, not even having to be chronological, keep in mind, and hey, as the man said "there's your show!"

"What?! 3 weeks of commercial fishing in the Bering Straits? Why are people gonna watch?" "Because it's on TV!"

Do you really think even the hard-working fishermen are not acting at all, ever? After all, if there really is nothing to make the show stay on TV, then there will be no more money to be made. "They want some drama, we'll give 'em a little drama" As much as it would be nice if the real industries shown in some of these shows would operate the same, show or no show, in modern Socialist America, it helps to have people on your side. Who knows what the next piece of legislation might do to your business?

There are a couple of other pet peeves with the reality shows, enough to make me sure I won't ever watch a one of them for long. The first is that, per my quick view of that chef/restaurant show, even the most minor things are meant to be made into drama and suspense by the incessant music in the background. This bunch of glorified fry cooks and counter-broads are supposed to be involved in something so important that I heard the very same music that would be played in a Jason Bourne movie as Mr. Undocumented Bourne*** is racing around town on his motorcycle, being chased by 3 "assets" with the future of the formerly-free world at stake. Here, the music is played to go along with the extreme suspense regarding whether the fried chicken will come out too dry. What's gonna happen?! I barely have any fingernails left.

Along with the extremely annoying music, there is the extremely annoying quick scene changes. I think that is the case with a lot of TV nowadays, but sure does not help matters. Just let me focus for a while and see everything rather than switching scenes every 5 seconds.

You know, done right, say a show for amateur astronomers showing guys setting up, maybe the occasional cool discovery**** would be something a select few loyal viewers would go for. I guess youtube channels have that covered now. Reality TV had its chance with me and you guys blew it.

Though taken off the TV in not the best fashion, the Seinfeld clip above was exactly what I was looking for. However, I enjoyed this one below just as much:

* Whoa, wait a minute, I thought cable TV WOULD NOT HAVE COMMERCIALS, cause we were paying and all. That was the idea back in 1980. We've been duped, people!

** Is that for the women viewers, or do they need this to get even male viewers? I kinda wonder about this. Maybe just the producers are composed of women who couldn't understand the point of a show with no arguing on it.

*** That should be the next in the series, The Born Undocumented - Peak Stupidity ragged on this series of movies for other reasons - please read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

**** Astronomy is one of the few sciences where an amateur can add to the knowledge base very readily.

Friday - December 6th 2019 7:20AM MST
PS: Autochthon, I understand your distinction between most of the shows, with the Kardashians (who I've never seen other than on quick web-site blurbs) at the far end, and your Chef Ramsey show. Of course, there are exceptions. As I wrote, if it were worth it to make reality shows of some very particular walks of life or hobbies, say amateur astronomers, since there are so many niche channels, that might very well be worth watching.

My crack about the dry chicken was particularly about the melodramatic music. I was going by your clip from your other comments. I do realize there is the big picture too, per your Romeo and Juliet example, and you have convinced me that this Ramsey is a stand-up guy. As I wrote, we are not really cooks of any sort in my family, though I suppose that could change, if we ever turned on the TV to some of this. There's just no spirit in either of us for this though.

I doubt I'll get around to watching this crazy fried chicken show... NO, just kidding, man - you reminded me of the 2nd video in this very post, and was was so funny about this one part - see, the Japanese TV exec. couldn't see the big picture of the humor (supposedly, as it was a pilot that never got on the air anyway). He say "I'm not sure this but-el-ler show would work in Japan". Haha!
Thursday - December 5th 2019 8:45PM MST

I came to peek at what you wrote since you mentioned earlier you planned to write about so-called "reality" television.

Again I emphasise the vast majority – nearly all of it – is complete shite, and the corny, melodramatic overproduction (sound cues, music, ostensibly suspenseful cuts, etc.) are execrable.

In defense of Gordon Ramsay's shows (literally the only such shows I will watch at all, save Cops), unlike almost all others, they are not staged, and he really cares about improving the situations. Claiming Ramsay's shows are about whether chicken is dry is like claiming Romeo & Juliet is about whether two horny teenagers will screw; his shows are about how to properly run restaurants and hotels, the value of teaching people to fish rather than feeding them, and the value of not coddling ass-hats who need a swift kick in the arse. A great example of this in America, low on the melodramatic overproduction, is this one:

The British version of Kitchen Nightmares, before the American's bastardised it with the melodrama, is also worth watching.

You have to contrast 1) a show about a man traveling around doing things like paying to put a struggling couple in a flat for six months and paying the salaries of three chefs for their hotel until such time as the hotel can begin making profits by implementing his recommendations with 2) (to use perhaps the most famous example) a show about a whore whose is literally famous because, and only because, she taped herself fornicating with a Negro and then sold the video go pornographers, and her subsequent, narcissistic, vapid adventures (I write, of course, about Kim Kardashian).
Wednesday - December 4th 2019 1:50PM MST
PS: Haha, Bill. Yeah, the navy has been AA'd into a real shitshow. We should hope it never comes down to a war with a serious foe like China.
Bill H
Wednesday - December 4th 2019 8:48AM MST
PS Well, I was going to say that the Navy would whip them into shape, but maybe not. What with a couple of destroyers colliding with cargo ships because the helmsman, oops, helmsperson could not cope with steering orders and engine orders at the same time, maybe not so much.

"Hey sailor, spit out that gum. You're going to be on the helm and I don't trust you to steer the ship and chew gum at the same time."
Tuesday - December 3rd 2019 9:30AM MST
PS: Yeah, that sounds pretty boring, Bill, unless one is on the edge of one's seat hoping to catch a capsizing in shark-infested waters. They need to equip the sharks with cameras too for some real reality.

What was the name of that show, and what was the "maybe ..." gonna be, some cut on the army? (I dunno, it's just that I've heard all of that ... "Air Farce", haha, etc.)
Bill H
Monday - December 2nd 2019 11:37PM MST
PS I always liked the one about saving whales. It took them 45 minutes to launch a boat. Did they ever think about, maybe, training these guys before they left port?

They could never find the Japanese whalers. Stumbling around the South Atlantic for weeks looking for a fleet of half a dozen ships. "We can stop these criminals if we can ever find them."

I'd like to see some of these idiots join the Navy. Well, maybe... Never mind.
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