“The reality...is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:17)
What is it about so-called reality shows?!
What is it about them that creates such immense popularity and longevity (American Idol, The Apprentice, The Real World, etc.), but also causes such outrage, criticism, and viewer rejection (My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé, Fear Factor, The Real World, etc.)? What is it?!
Is it that we like to escape from our supposedly boring day-to-day routine? That we like to watch “the beautiful people” and dream that we were them? That we like to play “peeping Tom” on the lives, loves, and liposuction of losers? Is it that we’re out of touch with reality?
I must admit it: I’ve watched reality shows...and even enjoyed them sometimes! I was hooked on the first ten seasons of The Real World, from New York to Hawaii. Lately, my college student sister-inlaw got me into Average Joe. And, for a while, my wife and I enjoyed laughing with, but mostly at, Blind Date. But I have seen the errors of my ways. As my wife says, “The real world is much better than The Real World. The person with you is much more interesting than the one on the tube.” God bless my wife!
American Idol usually Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., FOX Star Search meets The Gong Show–oh, sorry, you’re too young to remember that. Pretty simple formula: the host hosts; contestants sing, or try to, assigned songs in different categories; judges judge; viewers vote on who stays and who goes. Some are talented, some are not. The drama builds via lots of commercials and audience screaming. The winner gets a recording contract, great publicity and recognition. Try your hardest and give it your all. I’m Swedish (neutral).
Average Joe Mondays, 10:00 p.m., NBC The Bachelorette meets The Real World meets My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé. A swimsuit babe thinks she’s on a regular dating game type of show (is there anything “regular” or even realistic about reality TV?!), set to choose from a bevy of bodacious beaus. Instead of actually choosing from the Brad Pitt set, she must choose from the Eric Andrae set; in other words, these guys are average: some have zits, some are overweight, some lack social skills, etc. Later, the Brad Pitt set does arrive! Will she choose Brad Pitt or Eric Andrae?! Will she go for style over substance? Looks, personality, both, neither? Oh, what will she do!? Actually, the show wasn’t all that bad. The theme–upon what should true love be based?–is a good one and the show explores it entertainingly and, yes, even thoughtfully, especially through the interviews with those she eliminates. Lots of humor, too, though some of it is at the average Joes’ expense. There’s more than meets the eye. Get to know people before (pre-)judging them. Not much. The woman kisses all the guys; she’s scantily clad at times. If it’s on again, and if you choose, watch with parents and boy/girlfriend, and discuss.
The Real World Tuesdays, 10:00 p.m. (many re-runs!), MTV At first, The Real World featured seven fairly normal young adult strangers from different backgrounds rooming together in a big city as some sort of sociological experiment. Some of them even looked like average Joe, or Jane; some of them were even likeable. But, increasingly, the show has consisted of annoying self-centered immature argumentative models engaging in near soft-core porn. This column has discussed it before, but, simply put, sex sells. The envelope, apparently, must be pushed, along with the limits of good taste and teen-targeted TV. Add to that the politically correct nature of the show (e.g., there’s almost always a homosexual and, of course,“there’s nothing wrong with that”), and you’ve got...The Real World. Hedonism:“the doctrine that one’s own pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.” Uh, by the way, this is a false doctrine. Put it this way: out of 30 minutes, there’s about 2?, give or take, that are usually unobjectionable. Boycott MTV and tell them why. Don’t watch the show; you don’t need to: you already live in the real world and don’t let anyone say that you don’t!
Survivor usually Thursdays, 8:00 p.m., CBS Inspired by Lord of the Flies. Over 39 days, contestants are eliminated from a remote island, where the “luxuries” of normal life (good food, TV, warm blankets, houses, etc.) are non-existent. Through a series of competitions of both brain and brawn, you can gain immunity from elimination or win prizes (like a car!). If you don’t attain immunity, you can be voted off the island by current and, for the final two, past contestants. But in the meantime, you must also work together to survive. And, oh yeah, the winner gets a million bucks and a Letterman appearance! “Outwit, outplay, outlast.” Each man for himself. Look out for #1! Competition. Some curse words. Honesty and loyalty are not always promoted/encouraged. Even though I couldn’t understand a lot of the dialog (after all, there’s a guy from Boston and one from the South), it’s really a fun watch if you’re the competitive kind.
Don’t be so bored (or, rather, boring) that you get hooked on any of the “reality” shows. If I can recover, you can recover. Instead: bike, read, play sports, pray, talk to your sister, call your grandfather, swim, draw, daydream, write a letter (!), start a journal, study an atlas, memorize the Catechism’s explanation to the first article of the Creed, take pictures.