It seems that no topic is off limits to the world of commercial television when it comes to the topic of so-called “reality” TV.  These mockumentaries have replaced real television and American watchers are buying it hook, line and sinker.  Like any good lie, most of these shows are grounded in some sort of reality, but once all the film is in it is produced down to something that the producers feel is more interesting.  These shows are reduced down into a formulaic predictability where at the end of each commercial break they replay the last 15 seconds or so to add the dramatic effect.

There are two types of these so-called reality shows and numerous networks show nothing but them.  The first of the is the hardcore job variety.  I think these really got their start with Deadliest Catch, the Alaska crab fishing show.  As far as I can tell this was the last of the shows to be presented in any way to how things probably happened during the filming.

The second and most prevalent of these is the lets pick a topic, script it and film it variety.  We have storage wars, real estate wars, Amish mafias, gypsy mafias, drunken assholes at the Jersey shore, anorexic bimbos learning how to emote on film for model shows, “outlaw” motorcycle clubs, and shipping wars.  I am sure there are numerous other topics that I have forgotten or am not aware of, but it seems that there is no career field that cannot be made into scripted reality and presented as the real deal.

Once upon a time channels like Discovery and History lead the way on presenting good, educational television.  History actually presented historical topics and Discovery ran the gamut of historical and scientific television.  Some of the show may have been disputed from time to time but they generally put something together that was both entertaining and contained a modicum of accuracy in their content.  History has turned into ground zero for scripted reality and leads the way for delivering one to two hour trailers that proceed the release of a big budget “based on a true story” Hollywood feature.  Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are two of the most recent ones.  Discovery channel hardly even needs a mention since the last good thing they put out was #MythBusters.

The vast majority of reality shows, however, are on the aptly named “TRU TV”.  This bastion of bad things happen to people video clips and displays of police car dash board cameras has created the grand-daddy of all “real” TV topics, the storage bin.  There are more auction and storage shows that just so happen to follow the same exact script on each show.  No matter what city they are filming in, there is the auctioneer, the testy bidders, the storage lockers and at least one of the bidders finding something worth a shit pot of money hid amongst the massive pile of crap that the buyers must weed through.  All of these shows end with a roll-up of what was paid, what was found and the expected profit they may or may not make on their magnificent find.

Even the perpetual fan favorite reality shows fall victim to the producers knife with the hours and hours of film that is taken to deliver a weekly show.  This is true for shows like Survivor and the many, many music shows that grace us through the television viewing seasons.  These shows for the most part are entertaining even if the producers are being creative in manufacturing the interpersonal dramas that they are best associated with.  The best of the shows have all gotten their start overseas and been brought over here to add the distinctly American flair and cheapness to it.  American Idol and X-Factor both got their starts in the UK as have numerous game shows that have come and gone.  I do not even want to get started on the media outlets who sell daily tragedy and political issues for their sensationalized daily soap operas.

Gone are the days when you could actually sit down and watch TV and maybe learn something.  TV has taken on a WikiPedia like format that may contain a kernel of truth but it is all subject to further scrutiny.  I cannot think of anything that is active on TV today that is not produced for effect rather than accuracy.  Even the animal shows have drawn criticism for staging the survival of the fittest in the animal kingdom.  It used to be the greatest question of reality in television was professional wrestling, Vince McMahon at least took it to the edge and defined it as sports entertainment.  Wrestlers in the WWE at least do all their own stunts and do risk injury each time they go out and present their show.  It is a sad day when there is more honesty in the story lines and presentation of a WWE show than there is in the hardcore, violent world of the Amish Mafia.

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Comments
  1. Interesting take. You had me questioning my dislike for WWE for about 1.5 seconds.

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  2. Shocked. But not that shocked that something like “Amish Mafia” even exsits. I held out for the longest time and pathologically hated all reality TV. However, after a time, some crept into my heart. Essentially, because I live abroad, I basically watch absolutely no TV. Even the TV shows I download or stream from the States are all based on shows I knew when I left. That being said…a hideous, shameful, yet ever burning part of me has a shameful, AWFUL love of the Real House Wives series of a whole hella lotta cities. Nothing about these women is real, housewifey, or particuarly represents any city they live in, but damn. The sheer insanity and narcissim, self absorption and egotism displayed by these women makes me feel just so good about myself every day. I mean, come one. Who doesn’t like show that doesn’t make themselves give themselves a pat on the back for not being that fucking stupid or crazy. money or no money?

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    • YES! That is the best things about those shows, scripted or not, they always leave me feeling really good about anything in my life. Depression is reduced dramatically when you watch on of them.

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