Reality TV

by admin on May 27, 2013

This is a blog post that has been percolating in my mind for months. Years ago I wrote a scathing critique of reality shows which I viewed as an unrealistic extrapolation of real life events and an exploitation of children by their parents. Minor aged children do not have the capacity to judge what is best for them and this becomes a problem when their parents make decisions for them that are not in the children’s best interests. “Jon and Kate Plus Eight”, on the occasions I did watch it, made me cringe as the bratty exploits of the two older twins became the drama upon which an episode was based. The concept of “love covering a multitude of sins”, i.e. being discreet about exposing the foibles of others you allege to love, was antithetical to the fundamental goal of a reality TV show which was to expose as much family drama as possible.

When I began to become more of a public figure 18 years ago and had the opportunity to be seen or heard on TV, radio, print media, etc., my husband and I made the conscious decision to diligently protect the privacy of our then small children. Anyone would be hardpressed to find an instance of our kids’ names being mentioned online or in any media. This protected their personal right to choose how they wanted their life exposed to the world and as adults, they are very private and appreciative that I did not use them as real life etiquette examples nor exposed them in ways they could not control. There are no archives, no TV shows in syndication replaying the stupid things they did as kids and teenagers. Many years ago Walter Cronkite gave an interview during which he and his wife were asked about their children. Apart from their names and addresses, they both refused to answer any questions about their children (who were by then teenagers), saying their children had never volunteered to be his children and to publicize them would violate their privacy. The idea of protecting the privacy of your children is definitely lost on reality show “stars”.

The main purpose of any television show is to sell soap. The success or failure of any show, reality or otherwise, is dependent upon how much advertising revenue can be generated. Reality TV show “actors” typically make anywhere from $20K as a base salary all the way up to $200K PER EPISODE. Years ago I was offered the position of etiquette expert on a then popular make over show. The drama associated with this show was ridiculous and I declined. My husband’s nephew and wife were offered $20K to do one episode of “Wife Swap” (bluegrass gospel and rock families switching moms for a week) and declined. Some things in life are not for sale.

But there are plenty of drama queens and kings out there who will sell their dignity to the highest bidder. Have you sat through a typical life event, scanned the crowd and wondered who would be the most likely to star in a reality TV series? I have. I enjoy estate auctions and I know exactly who, of the regular attendees, would eagerly signup to be a reality star. They are the blow hards, the drama queens who strut around self importantly drawing attention to themselves (often with entitled behavior) while the rest of the normal folk quietly go about the business of life with as minimal amount of drama as possible.   They are the ones who enter a room with loud drama, drawing all eyes to themselves.   Reality TV is not representative of the real world.  The shows are biased towards casting people who are exhibitionists with limited boundaries on appropriate behavior.   The producers want “stars” who will deliver the drama and the uglier the behavior, the better.   Indiscretion, gossip, backbiting and backstabbing, slander, trash talking, rudeness, retaliation, deceit, hatred, bullying, harassment, and on and on are all put out there for public consumption as if this was how real people behave.    And it’s all done for the almighty dollar.

Just watching the trailers for any of the “Real Housewives of ……” series tells me there is nothing real about these alleged “housewives”.  A lot of manufactured drama which would make those with an intact sense of decorum, decency and dignity recoil in horror at the suggestion they behave in that manner.    I watched National Geographic channel’s series, “Meet The Hutterites” with great anticipation since the Hutterites have historically been a very closed society and I expected NGS’s usual standard of informative, documentary style programming.   The entire series earned harsh criticisms because the producers created false story lines and hyped the drama thus turning it into a tawdry reality show that was profoundly embarrassing for the Hutterites of the King Colony.   They had sold off their dignity for a large sum of money that was used to buy large equipment for the colony.  “Breaking Amish” was another series that drew intense criticism from the Amish and Mennonite communities as being nothing even remotely comparable to reality since none of the “stars” were actually who they claimed to be.    Five people who were presented as in the process of leaving the Amish or Mennonites were found to have left the religion years earlier, had arrest records for DUIs/unlawful conduct/spousal abuse.   All were portrayed as being unmarried yet social media site Facebook was quick to reveal that nearly all of them had been previously married, some had children, were divorced.     It was viewed as a gross distortion of the truth and a hateful maligning of the Amish in order to create drama that would sell advertising.

Reality TV is a debasement of our culture as it glorifies, educates and encourages behavior that is not dignified, decent, restrained, truthful, or kind.

Part two tomorrow will discuss the trend towards exploiting the vulnerable.

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

The Elf May 27, 2013 at 8:02 am

Count me in as another reality show hater. The only ones I’ve watched have been “competition” type shows, and even then they tried to infuse it with drama. Take “Full Metal Jousting”, for interest. As a fan the high middle ages period of history, I just had to tune in and see how they were going to do jousting in a modern era. The sport part of it was great! It was fun seeing the horses and armor. I loved the way the competitors grow in skill over the season. But in the middle of all of it, they tried for foster false drama between the competitors! The whole thing was set up as red team vs black team – the team competition was not enough? We fast-forwarded through those parts.

I see no appeal in the “day in the life” type of reality television, such as “Jersey Shore”. How that became so popular is beyond me. I completely agree that it is a debasement of our culture. And don’t get me started about “Toddlers & Tiaras”.

I don’t watch a lot of TV in the first place. When I do, I prefer a scripted drama with multiple interesting characters and a convoluted plot to pull me away from reality for an hour, just like what I prefer in my choice of reading. Bonus if it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or is set in a historical time period. These days, “Borgias” and “Game of Thrones” tops my DVR list.

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Angel May 27, 2013 at 8:19 am

I think it’s sad that young kids are watching these shows and often think that this is appropriate behavior. Shows like these make parents’ jobs that much harder. My kids are 5 and 7, right now I have a pretty good handle on what shows I allow them to watch, but in a few more years that might not be the case. I would hate to think that they think people on reality TV shows are acting the way normal folks act. I had heard similar things about Breaking Amish, I don’t watch that show, mostly my reality shows are limited to home improvement shows and cooking shows, and once in a while I do admit I watch Bridezillas. I never watch it when my kids are awake though. I don’t think kids should be allowed to be on these shows or to watch them.

Shows like Real Housewives, Jon and Kate plus 8 (I’m very happy that show is off the air!) and Keeping up With the Kardashians to me do nothing more than speed up the decline of society as we know it. I didn’t even know who the Kardashians were until the reality show came out–I wish they had just stayed in obscurity where they belong.

Thank you for this post, admin, I am very glad I’m not the only parent who feels that TV has gotten totally messed up in recent years. I really wish that TLC had just stayed the way it was originally intended, The Learning Channel. All the shows that used to be on there that would give household decorating tips, sewing, crocheting, cleaning tips, etc., have fallen by the wayside, and been replaced by Toddlers and Tiaras, childbirth shows (seriously how many of those types of shows do we need??) and about 40 different wedding gown shows. Even What Not to Wear has gotten gone Hollywood. Very sad. :(

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Daisy May 27, 2013 at 8:19 am

I couldn’t possibly agree more, nor have expressed it better!

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another Laura May 27, 2013 at 8:24 am

And then there is “Toddlers in Tiaras” where parents intentionally dress their pre-school age daughters like cocktail waitresses and hookers (in a preview one small girl was wearing a replica of Julia Robert’s hooker dress from “Pretty Woman”). Treating a small child like a sex symbol on national television is not necessarily something those girls will look back on gratefully as adults. I also doubt many of them grow up with good manners. This is probably the fastest way to create an entitled special snowflake that there could be.

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bloo May 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

Amen.

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Anonymous May 27, 2013 at 8:41 am

Jeanne, I think you’re right–some reality TV is notoriously bad, and sometimes I wonder if it’s no longer “cool” to work through your family’s problems, or experience a major life event, in private. Getting married? There’s a reality TV show for that. Need to lose weight? There’s a reality TV show for that. Trying to lose weight for your wedding? There’s a reality TV show for that. Looking for that special someone? There’s a reality show for that. There are also reality TV shows for people with badly-behaved kids, people with badly-behaved dogs, people who push their kids single-mindedly into various extra-curricular activities, like dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, and pageants, people who don’t dress well, people who are trying to get organized, people who are trying to buy, sell, and flip houses, and just about everything else you can think of…….and it all started with Survivor, the show about people “stranded” on a desert island, competing in a different challenge every week, and voting a different person off the island at the end of each episode. Yes, they bring out the worst in some people (ever see Abby Lee Miller on Dance Moms? I’m told that she’s much nicer to the little girls at the dance school when the TV cameras aren’t on). However, I’m not going to say that reality TV is inherently “rude.” Some reality TV shows are actually quite well done, like Lenore Skenazy’s “Bubble Wrap Kids,” which was sadly cancelled after one season, and a documentary I once saw called “Autism: The Musical.” Anyway, even though a lot of reality TV shows are horribly vulgar, for all the reasons you mentioned, “rude” and “polite” aren’t really priorities from a TV producer’s point of view. Instead, the point is to get ratings, and if people watch a certain show, they’ll keep it on. Also, rude and vulgar TV shows existed long before reality TV was even heard of. For example, “Beavis and Butt-head” pre-dated Survivor by several years, and it’s hard to say which show is worse. All you can really do is vote with your feet, and not watch things you find offensive, and encourage others to do the same.

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Margaret May 27, 2013 at 8:44 am

Hear hear! I can’t stand those shows. Wait, no, I like to watch the cooking ones, but I’m well aware that it is edited for dramatic effect.

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Cat May 27, 2013 at 8:51 am

I ceased watching reality TV and situation comedies years ago. They reminded me of what wrestling was in the 1950′s and 1960′s- over-done dramatics, but with worse language and manners than the wrestlers ever displayed.
Reality TV has far more of “Fantasy Island” in it than reality. To pretend that the situations are, in any sense, “real”, assumes that viewers have the IQ of rocks. The shows mentioned were disrespectful to both the Amish and to the Hutterites. The problem is that, as so many people know nothing of these groups, they believe whatever they see and hear as representative of these groups.
It’s nothing new, however. Before mass media, there were travelling “educational” programs that drew large crowds. The infamous “Maria Monk” claimed to have been a former nun and she would appear dressed in a nun’s habit. She described convents as prisons where young women were held captive, the underground tunnels leading to the rectories of the priests, the babies buried in quick lime in the basement..
It was all quite exciting and reached the point where a mob attacked a convent, (I believe it was in Boston),to free the young women being held captive. They were shocked when there were no tunnels, no babies buried in quick lime, and no women who desired to leave. Maria turned out to be a woman of ill repute who had never taken the veil.
The belief in such convents remained widespread, however. One of the “Elsie Dinsmore” series for girls even had a situation in which little Elsie was threatened with being sent to a convent school. Convinced that she would be forced into religious life, she became so seriously ill from terror that she nearly died.
We never seem to learn.

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yokozbornak May 27, 2013 at 8:56 am

Amen! I have chosen not to watch most reality TV shows (I adore Top Chef! and most cooking competitions) because I figure the less people who watch the better chance they quit making them. It’s bad enough when adults choose to make fools of themselves, but it makes me sick when children are exploited like the Duggar children or the Gosselin children. What’s even worse, these children are not protected by the same laws that protect child actors so they will never see the income that they produced unless their parents put it aside from them.

I have been acquainted with a couple of people that have been on reality shows (one was on American Idol, one was on Big Brother) and it was eye opening to see how they were treated. I don’t think there is enough money in the world to make me sell my dignity like that.

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Kimberly Herbert May 27, 2013 at 9:44 am

The last reality show I watched was either Unsolved Mysteries or Call 911 and at least those served a purpose and have been credited with saving/improving lives. I would happily participate in a boycott of all advertisers. Someone will have to provide a list, I’m a cord cutter, so I can’t watch to put together a list. One of the benefits of being a cord cutter is that these shows no longer are even on my radar. I don’t see promos for them.

The use of children in reality shows and beauty pageants should be outlawed.

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Anonymous May 27, 2013 at 9:46 am

How could I forget the cooking shows? I used to love MasterChef Junior, not just because the kids were so cute, but because Matt Preston et. al were much nicer to the contestants on the “junior” version of that show than the ones on the original adult version, because they were kids.

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NostalgicGal May 27, 2013 at 10:09 am

You can’t even make me sit through a sitcom, or most of the onair broadcast lineup (pick anything).

Reality TV, the closest I will get is Mythbusters.

We have streaming from a few different outlets, and totally severed the Satellite TV umbilical (where I am at there is no broadcast TV, nada, you must either get cable or satellite or the new bit, buy your own dongle or puck and stream through Netflix, Hulu Plus (aka internet) or forget it).

The first one was a hit so someone decided to flood us with this dramallama reality garbage, and others wonder why I watched a lot of Military Channel, Discovery Channel, etc, when I did have Satellite. At least they had something ELSE on (yes, documentaries and other things that didn’t insult my intelligence; some of the current fare not even a six pack would help. I’d rather have the bugzapper to watch).

Nielsen is finally cluing in everyone is migrating to on-demand services and they are losing their demographic, so broadcast wants to go draconian to try to get their share back. Just like music and other industries have failed to keep up; so too we are now all going to our little handheld wired in pacifiers and want our now now now streaming and that makes for advertising h*ll.

I considered the shift to Reality TV is where the media and the fickle public’s tastes started the shift and the industry is far behind. Meanwhile, webcam TV is here to stay. (lets send Honey Boo Boo, you can’t MISS that she exists period, off to a nice private school somewhere far far from the cameras and let her grow up)

What happened to books? Oh that’s right, ereaders like kindle and nook, and we gotta be plugged in to our stream….

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admin May 27, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I don’t put Mythbusters in the same category of reality TV. Besides, the cast members are all so endearingly sweet and professional in how they interact with each other. Lots of mutual respect combined with humor.

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schnickelfritz May 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

Exploiting tots and youngsters is the worst of the worst. I remember a catalog (this is kind of lame, and tame, compared to today’s exploitations) the catalog advertised pacifiers for children – with faces of pigs, dogs, etc. The babies in the ads, had the pacifiers in their mouths – with the outward pig faces, etc. I was floored, some parent would do that to their beautiful baby. It was not cute at all. The babies were really young, just about the age when they could sit up by themselves. The worst, the America’s Funniest Home Video – when they submit “funny” (not) videos of little kids, in terrible moments, to win $$$. They made me naseaus. Showing a kid having an accident, doing something really embarrassing, picking their noses, etc. Or the famous video of the kid after the dentist visit, clearly still on medication, high as a kite and trying to talk etc. My heart hurts for these kids. I would be so hurt, as a young adult, seeing how my parent exposed /exploited my childhood / baby image to the world! There should be a law against exploiting babies / kids / teens for $$ or laughs.

In my mind, posting videos of your kids on the internet, no matter the content, is a form of exploitation. I have adorable pics of nieces and nephews, (suitable for cute captions, etc.), I am a doting Auntie, and I would never post them or put them on any site, without their parent approval – and I have never asked for approval – when I am tempted to do it, I realize someone could copy and post elsewhere, and I stop myself. Private Facebook is a nice way to share family photos – but I prefer e-mail over Facebook, when it comes to pics of kids.

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Ergala May 27, 2013 at 10:48 am

I watch a few like Kitchen Nightmares. But the ones like Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo….the only redeeming quality about Honey Boo Boo’s show is that it’s not based in Hollywood around people who have a ton of money. The 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom shows have done very little to actually help anyone. In fact two of the girls are in jail, one has been arrested with her husband for severe child neglect, a few have given birth AGAIN and one of them just made a porn tape and another has been divorced and remarried by the time she was 21. I see nothing but train wrecks but that seems to be the appeal of them to the vast population.

Kitchen Nightmares on the other hand, I love how raw Gordon Ramsey is and honest.

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bethany May 27, 2013 at 10:49 am

@cat, while i agree with your post, i just want to say that Elsie got sick because she was terrified to leave her family, which was the threat behind the school. she was a deeply religious girl from the begining

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Kovitlac May 27, 2013 at 11:11 am

I watch extremely few reality shows, none of which are based on rude of manipulative behavior. I’ve watched What Not to Wear, Iron Chef, Oddities, Restaurant Impossible, and similar shows. I won’t say that no dramatic element is ever introduced, but for the most part, overly-dramatic tv flair isn’t a prominent factor in the show. Although one show I used to watch, Storage Wars, was recently hit hard in the media for being pretty fake.

I can’t stand shows where people set out to make themselves look stupid, or cheap, or entitled or dumb. Why on earth would people want to do that to themselves? I just don’t understand it. The shows I watch may not 100% true to life (people rarely ever act like themselves when they’re on tv), but at least it doesn’t showcase rude manner or manipulative behavior, and I wouldn’t object to young kids watching them.

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VM May 27, 2013 at 11:23 am

Not only is reality in “reality” shows skewed from the start with choice of casting and with setting up of situations, it’s shaped post-production. The story is really told in the editing bay. So factor in how the selecting, cutting and juxtaposing of minute fractions of the many hours of footage can effect one’s perception of the totality of what’s going on … and all outside the control of those being filmed.

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MGirl May 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm

OK, I will admit to watching one or two reality shows, but Amen! on not exploiting children. My mother is a writer, and even though I am in my 20s she never mentions me by name is anything. She uses anecdotes from my childhood or examples of what’s happening to me now, but she always uses a pseudonym. Her reasoning is that I have my own career, which includes getting my name out there and publishing papers, and she doesn’t want anyone to google me and come up with something she wrote. I really, really appreciate that she’s looking out for me, even now :)

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Seiryuu May 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Like the majority on this site, I despise reality TV shows, primarily because of 2 reasons:

1) They’re not real.
2) The plotlines are worse than even most poorly scripted shows.

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Margo May 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

The sad part is that it is possible to make interesting, engaging reality shows that don’t rely on bad behavior.

a couple of years ago C4 here (in the UK) made a series which followed a group of British teenagers travelling to the USA to live with Amish families, and then a group of teens from the Amish community coming here. It was very interesting, and the makers/narrators took the trouble to provide additional information when it was relevant (for example, making it clear that the Amish community would not, under normal circumstances, allow filming or photographs)

I also remember a fascinating series when I was a child, about a group of families who agreed to live under Iron Age conditions for (I think) a year. It was a form of practical archeology, as well as reality TV. In that case, I think that none of the programs were broadcast until all had been filmed. As I recall, there were some issues, and drama, but they weren’t the focus.

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Ashley May 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

The only reality show I put up with is Cake Boss because I like cakes and have a bit of a crush on Ralph. Beyond that, I could do without them. ESPECIALLY Breaking Amish. My TV has an odd habit of just picking a random channel to be on when I turn it on, and one day it picked TLC. Breaking Amish was on while I was flipping through my guide and I couldn’t believe the language they were using. They curse worse than I do amongst my friends. Plus it’s so fake. Ugh.

My least favorites of all are any of the dating shows. They make no sense to me and more successful couples have come from The Biggest Loser than the Bachelor and Bachelorette combined!

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Cmoassandra S. May 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I heartily agree, Ms. Jeanne. For the past few years I have become more and more appalled at the way “Reality TV” has taken over cable. I have never been a fan and could never understand why so many others watch these shows and choose to believe that anything in an “unscripted” TV show is actual reality. I will admit that there is one show I have watched–The Joe Schmoe Show. I was drawn in by the premise, a fake reality show filled with actors designed around one “real” person to show just how nice that person truly is. The first season of this show was both humorous and enjoyable as their Joe Schmoe proved himself to be a truly stand-up guy. However, you couldn’t get me to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, or any Real Housewives show even for the millions these people are apparently earning. I watch TV for entertainment, and I am not entertained by other people behaving deplorably.

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AriaDream May 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

The only thing close to reality TV I watch is the Amazing Race. Mom’s addicted to Survivor, though. I hate the interpersonal politicking, although I enjoy the challenges.

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SuzieQ May 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Thank you for your comments. You’ve expressed very well what I have been thinking for years.

I don’t have cable, haven’t had it for a very long time. I have no desire to watch any of these reality shows. One of my coworkers actually berated me for NOT watching realty television, because, after all, how would I learn about the world? Seriously, she said that. Um, how about PBS? I’d rather watch classic movies or good comedies on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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Marozia May 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I absolutely agree with you, Jeanne. I hate reality TV and friends have labelled me judgemental because of that. So *and here it comes* I watched ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’, ‘My Sweet 16′ and ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’. All I can say was I was appalled by the disgraceful behaviour of the BRATS on these programmes. As a Romani, I took great offence to these ‘gypsies’ (or whatever they are!). If my father saw me behaving in that manner, he would’ve taken the stick to us.
As for the other two. Well, what can I say?? I was turned off. So I did and went back to reading my beloved books.

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Shyla May 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I fully agree with you. However, I think the shows that use children are worse than other reality shows. If adults want to be complete idiots they have that right. They can suffer the consequences. The shows that use children are horrible. They have no idea how their moments will be viewed for all eternity. They cannot consent to that or understand the consequences. I follow some blogs that discuss Jon & Kate. The fans, on a constant basis, bring up how much they love a quote from the series “Hannah pooped in her unnerwares.” That poor child will have that follow her for life.

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Cat May 27, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Bethany, I believe you have read the modern day, sanitized version of “Elsie’s Holiday at Roselands” and not the original. The original chapter ten reads, ” They will not dare to hurt you, Elsie, she hastened to say.” (This is Elsie’s aunt speaking)
“Oh, they will! They will! They will try to make me go to mass and pray to the Virgin, and bow to the crucifixes, and when I refuse, they will put me into a dungeon and torture me.”
“No, no!” sobbed the little girl.’ They will hide me from papa when he comes and tell him that I want to take the veil, and refuse to see him, or else they will say I am dead and buried. Oh, Aunt Adelaide, beg him not to put me there! I shall go crazy!”
That’s way past not wanting to leave ones father.

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Esmeralda May 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

There are a couple of these shows I find myself watching, such as Kitchen Nightmares. But for the most part, this genre is without much merit. The one I detested the most (not sure if it’s still on air) was about “Gypsy” weddings. I watched it, in much the same manner as one ogles a train wreck: mesmerized by the horror of it all. I’m Romany (not “gypsy”, my generation doesn’t use that word,) and I can assure you, that show does not represent anything close to my culture. What’s problematic, though, is that so many people assume that it’s an accurate portrayal of us, when in fact, it’s a scripted minstrel show designed to make us look silly and crass, as well as perpetuating the use of an obsolete and offensive word.
I don’t know if there’s any solution to this problem, other than changing the channel and hoping the networks broadcasting this detritus will get the message, and start producing some shows worth watching. I’m not going to hold my breath, though.

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JeanLouiseFinch May 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Reading this post and the comments simply serves to confirm the sense of our decision 5 years ago to get rid of our TV when we moved. We do have an old TV hooked up to an old VCR player so that we can watch some our older videotapes (Alexander Nevsky and 49th Parallel, yeah!), but we do not receive broadcast TV of any kind. So, we just listen to the radio for entertainment and get breaking news on our computers and/or smartphones. We do have Netflix and Amazon Prime for movie watching and have watched several TV series via Netflix. I watched one episode of “Honey Boo Boo” when I was in the hospital this winter and almost got sick(er), especially when they were sitting around eating ketchup on spaghetti out of plastic bowls for their dinner! I thought of the pregnant girl and just cringed at the idea of proper nutrition for her. If you have seen the movie “Idiocracy,” you will understand my perspective. People seem to think it’s impossible to give up a TV, but trust me, once you are away from it for a couple of weeks, you really don’t miss it. At this point, I admit though, that if I did not have Kindle or a computer, I would be pretty frantic.

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Barb May 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I get only 2 PBS channels at my home (antenna) and that is fine with me. I have seen cable and all the reality shows, I would not pay $3 a month to have that provided to me. The Reality virus has infected all the channels, even History channel no longer has history programs. It is even creeping into PBS with Market Warriors. Gotta have competition!!

Cracked.com has a great article on the “reality” of reality TV. Most “winners” on The Biggest Loser gain the weight back, what a shock. The homeowners on Extreme Makeover Home Edition usually wind up selling the great house they were given as they can not afford the upkeep and taxes.

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Vanessa May 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

In the June 2013 copy of ‘Reader’s Digest’, they have a hysterical account by Dave Barry of the hunting of pythons in the Everglades. (Note: I realize pythons being released into the Everglades by irresponsible owners is a HUGE problem and one that is endangering local/native wildlife.)

According to Barry, the rules stated the pythons had to be killed in a humane manner.
Per Barry:
“That mean no killing of pythons using cruel and inhumane methods such as forcing it to watch ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ until it committed suicide,….”

I almost snorted milk out of my nose.

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Aje May 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm

If any of you are looking for a TV show with a lota kid family, there’s a few episodes of ” Table for 12″ on youtube. It’s a family of ten. Two sets of twins and a set of sextuplets. One girl has cerebral palsy and the way they all come together and take care of her is very touching. They’re a very tight knit sweet family. :)

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kingsrings May 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I do watch some reality shows, like the one about the Duggars. But I think that one is very classy, respectful, and clean. And it doesn’t seem staged. Yes, the kids are on TV without their full, knowing consent though, of course. And I admit to watching ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’. I don’t know why….I guess it’s like watching a trainwreck, heh.

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admin May 28, 2013 at 2:46 am

The Duggars view their experiences with reality TV as a ministry. They may be making money per episode but it appears to be given away for relief efforts in Haiti and helping friends build an addition to their home. Michelle Duggar is the antithesis of the undignified drama queen.

One reality show that is not staged in any way is Full Combat Rescue about first responder paramedics in Afghanistan. It truly is reality.

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jen a. May 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Amen!

Can we extend this rant to people who post humiliating and disgusting photos or videos on facebook of their children? Diaper blowouts, injuries, or overshares regarding one’s children isn’t cute. It’s like people forget that babies and children grow into adults who may not want that shared with the world. The website stfuparents does a good job of documenting this, but always blurs photos and conceals identities (something the parents don’t do themselves).

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psyche May 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Other than American Idol, NY Ink, and the World’s Dumbest series, I don’t watch much reality tv. I kinda became disenchanted with the reality show genre after watching the SyFy serials Mad Mad House and Who Wants to Be a Superhero.

Mad Mad House I actually liked: it was about a group of “normal” people living in a house with five members of odd and unusual subcultures: a Wiccan, a vampyre, a modern primitive, a voodoo priestess, and a raw foodist. These people were nice, polite individuals, and it looked like the producers made an effort not to make the Alts look like freaks. I was appalled to find a channel devoted to repeats of reality shows such as Mad Mad House, complete with interviews of the contestants. Many of them readily admitted in the interviews that they thought the Alts beliefs were stupid and simply played along to get the cash prize and openly mocked them. I used to wonder why there wasn’t a second season. Now I know.

Who Wants to Be a Superhero, I admit, I watched out of morbid curiousity. It was humiliating watching it, seeing these normal, everyday people wearing spandex, calling themselves outlandish names, on the chance that Stan Lee *might* turn their character into a comic series and a SyFy Original Movie. It was even more humiliating that there was a second season of this! But as my father acidly pointed out, they don’t have to pay scriptwriters anything. Reality shows are a blessing for cheapskate producers.

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The TARDIS May 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Sometimes, I wonder if kids and teens who watch reality shows model their behavior that way, which leads to the frightening incidences of bullying in schools and online.

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Twin May 27, 2013 at 6:47 pm

The worst thing about reality TV is that they are convincing the gullible that this is reality.

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NostalgicGal May 27, 2013 at 7:41 pm

@ admin, #22…

I know Mythbusters aren’t reality TV, that is what I quoted as the closest I’d get to “Reality TV” (or as it’s obvious, far far away from it). They did spin off from that one though, some stuff that lasted only a few episodes, and so on (not using any of the M5 staff). I can’t even remember the name of the one where they had a group of people and the only thing I remember about the episode I watched is that they put a trailer house in front of big windfans to expose it to hurricane winds and watched it rip apart. No science, or method to it.

You may keep Survivorman, Pawn Stars, Housewives of (fill in blank), Teen Mom, dating shows, big brother shows, Here Comes Honey Booboo, Bridezillas, American Chopper (loved their work hated the rest, yes I seen a few episodes) and so on and so on and so on.

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Ange May 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I agree with the crassness of exploiting children for ‘entertainment.’ It is always worse when it’s done by parents and even without TV you can see it any time you log into social media. Parents have forgotten to give their kids dignity anymore.

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ImJustSaying May 27, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I only watch True Talent Competition shows, like So You Think You Can Dance, and The Sing Off. Both of these shows require that you actually deliver on demand excellent work. Both however are on the bottom of the totem pole in regards to publicity (SYTYCD’S results show with amazing group numbers was cut) The Sing Off gets no true support from NBC. AI and The Voice are Judges/Personality first , New talent second. AI also completely manufactures the ending that they want. I will admit I was happy to see Candice win this year but AI was determined to have a girl win after 6 years of unsuccessful boy winners.
About Teen Mom/16&Preg They have shown reports that teen pregnancy overall has gone down since the have aired. The poor girls on the show however are victims to the drama machine they signed up for foolishly.
The true stories behind Biggest Loser and Extreme Home Makeover make me so sad. EHM drew me in with the stories of the deserving families but the execution of the builds always WORKED MY NERVES! Your 6 y.o. likes dinosaurs? LET’S PUT A T-REX HEAD IN HIS ROOM! No need to think ahead to when he’s 16 and needs that space. My favorite additions were the secret doors to mom and dad’s room. Of course I want my toddler to have access to my room all times of the day or night. Especially when me and hubby want some ADULT TIME!
Sorry this got long winded and rant-y fast. This is why I limit my reality TV time, it takes over in more ways than one.

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Lo May 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Reality TV *is* a debasement of our culture, I agree with you completely. The exploitation of children that passes for entertainment is mind-blowingly insensitive.

But I can’t blame the networks for low-brow and exploitative television. They give us what we (as a culture) ask for and what makes money is what stays on the air. We have only ourselves to blame when we feed them our attention. I wish more people would simply change the channel but drama sells, even manufactured drama passing for the real thing.

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David May 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I realized the other day that my wife and I have over 400 channels and we watch maybe 9 of them. Unfortunately, in order to get 2 of the shows we tape (with a vcr!) to watch later we have to pay for 391 channels we don’t ever look at.

The closest thing to ‘reality’ TV we watch are DIY and cooking shows but only if they aren’t a competition show. I’d rather watch people put together a garden or a new dining room.

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amanda May 27, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I am not sure that I should comment as we do not have television. However I do hear lots about it from parents and children I talk to. I am not sure that Americans are aware of the effect reality shows have on people who watch them from abroad. I have travelled and I know that 99.9% of Americans are not like those portrayed on these shows. Many young people though, who have not had a chance to visitor get to know ‘real’ Americans believe that they are as shown on such shows. After all it is called ‘reality’ television. We have a few such shows here, off the top of my not well informed head, they are about police, highway patrols and the ambulence service. I think there was one about SPCA – an animal welfare group – and a couple about families who returned to the historic past and lived as their forebears did. So we have nothing to judge your shows against.

I think that all americans if they think these shows are rubbish, should be telling the television companies to stop making them, not just changing channels. And you should certainly stop them exporting them.

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Lisa May 28, 2013 at 3:11 am

I completely agree with what admin said. I blame Paris Hilton for the start of this trend…

However:
Isn’t this site a form of reality-tv, though? Because why do people want to read about the terrible faux-pas a complete stranger made? Is it truly so that they can learn from it and better their own behaviour? Or is it just fun/facinating sometimes to be mortified by that crass/tacky/sleazy/clueless gimme-pig? I know that anyone who submits a story who has a bit of good sense changes names/identifyers, so it’s a different type of situation, but at the core, isn’t the feeling for the viewers/readers the same? To read/see and say: thank GOD I am not like that? I would honestly like to know how the readers of this site feel about this, because if I tried to answer that question sincerely, I would get conflicted quite quickly. Aren’t the gimme-pigs providing our entertainment right now too, thus making all the ‘reality-TV is terrible and I don’t watch/condone it’ a tad hypocritical? My gut-feeling is that the Bridezilla shows are horrendous, yet I enjoy reading the Hell’s Bells part of this website, where Bridezilla stories are often the ‘best’ ones, that get the most comments. So is it fair to be judgemental about the viewers of reality-tv?

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Green123 May 28, 2013 at 3:23 am

Don’t like, don’t watch.

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--Lia May 28, 2013 at 5:39 am

Lisa @46– Yup. The difference is one of degree, not of kind. I read this site for the oh-my-gawd kick of it.

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Barb May 28, 2013 at 5:52 am

another thing I have noticed – reality shows that appeal to men usually have people DOING something – logging, building choppers, crab fishing, driving trucks; while those that appeal to women are all about the drama – Real Housewives, Dance Moms, Bridezillas, etc. Kinda sad. Especially when they are all over the “networks for women”. I as a woman want to see something better than what WE, Lifetime, and OWN provide.

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The Elf May 28, 2013 at 7:39 am

I see a big difference between “reality” tv and crude scripted/animated shows like “Beavis and Butt-head” or “South Park”. Those shows never pretended to be a slice of real life or “unscripted, real” people. It was clearly fiction from the beginning.

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Phoebe161 May 28, 2013 at 7:59 am

Just give me a good book any day instead of so-called “reality TV.” Actually, I think I’d would even prefer a bad book to “reality TV.”

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Mae May 28, 2013 at 8:17 am

Very well stated, Admin. This is why I generally only watch game shows and movie channels.

My community had it’s on reality TV experience recently. There are 2 world class museums in our community. On the same week, the guys from the MTV show”Catfish: The TV Show” went to the science museum and they taped an episode of the VH1 show “Single Ladies” at the western art museum. They put out a casting call for “characters” for the VH1 show.

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