Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Reality" TV

Wednesday, July 16, marks the debut of Season 5 of Project Runway on Bravo.

I must confess that, for the most part, I don't care for Reality shows--especially the ones set up as supposed "competitions". (The exceptions, for me, are Project Runway and Top Chef.) Seriously, if someone is making up challenges for the contestants--how "real" is that? Just giving a bunch of people a chore and then turning the camera on doesn't necessarily make for compelling TV. And if to make it compelling you have to edit things in a certain order, and manipulate people behind the scenes, and make backstage decisions that might run contrary to what actually happened in the competition--where's the "reality"? Why not challenge your own creativity and make a normal TV show, whether it's a sitcom or an hour-long drama?

The truth, I feel, is that so many so-called reality shows are totally scripted. The real challenge is making us believe that they aren't. Now, I don't mean that all the dialogue and everything that happens is written down. But I do think that certain scenarios are written up or invented, the contestants or families or whoever the main focus of the show is on are told what the show is going to be about and what events will take place--and then everybody is turned loose to see what happens. Any "reality" is kept to a minimum.

I'm also always worried about the little disclaimer at the end of some of these competition-style shows that inform us that the producers or whoever had input into the decision-making process of who stays and who goes. Again, that seems to remove the "reality" from it. If someone made the worst dress, or cooked the worst meal, or whatever--they should be the ones to go. It shouldn't be some guy from the network saying, "Yes, he sucked at the challenge, but he reaches the demographic that we're aiming for, and he's such a jerk that he adds some much needed drama to the show, so get rid of someone else."

I don't know if that's what actually happens, but I sure do wonder, sometimes......

I think my favorite show--a form of reality show--is on the Food Network: Ace of Cakes. Watching Chef Duff and the employees of Charm City Cakes make these incredible (and edible) creations is just amazing to me. That, to me, is real talent. Programs that show off imagination and creativity have more appeal to me than, "Who can eat the most pig testicles?"

It's that creative process and watching the ideas come to life that allow me to cut Project Runway a little slack. And, of course, there's another reason:

Two words: Heidi Klum.

Now that kind of reality I don't mind in the least..... :-)


Hermione said...

Hi Dr. Ken!

I have watched the cake show on occasion. Liked the Harry Potter episode. But my all-time favourite reality show is Hell's Kitchen. Chef Gordon Ramsay gets so angry at his team of chefs, I always imagine he's going to spank somebody.

Who knows? Maybe he does, but the film ends up on the cutting room floor. Or, hopefully, on the internet.


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Michael said...

Wonderful post, Dr. Ken. Couldn't agree more that there is little reality on these shows and a lot more staged moments, and that the producers have a lot more influence on the outcome than they want the public to know. I always remember with a chuckle what the character Furio on "The Sopranos" said about the guy who won
"Survivor." Something like he'd show him reality by pointing a gun in his face, demanding all his winnings and saying "Survive this!"

I don't watch reality shows, well, sometimes I catch a few minutes of "Beaty and the Geek" if it happens to be on. I think it's funny the girls are so dumb in most things, except when it comes to manipulating people, and the guys are almost idiot savants who are totally socially inept, but so book smart. I can only watch a few minutes, though, before I get agravated and need to turn it off before my brain turns into mush.

Hermione, I'ved never seen "Hell's Kitchen" but I can't stand it just from the commercials. This Gordon idiot looks like a bully and I can not stomach bullies.


Dr. Ken said...

Hermione--I can see where you'd like Hell's Kitchen from your explanation. I think what you like about the show, though, is exactly what I don't like and why I don't watch it. The yelling and screaming and the anger just make me tune right out....

Michael--you and I have about the same reaction to so-called reality shows. And they just get worse. I recently caught about 2 minutes of "Shear Genius". You can make an hour long program out of this? It's CUTTING HAIR, for cryin' out loud.
Ok, you, contestant 6. Here's your challange. Short back and sides. You didn't accidentally nick the ears? Ok, you WIN....

CJ said...

Dr. Ken and Michael,

I couldn't help but think the only thing the last picture needed for improvement for you both would be nice rosy cheeks on her bum! Even better if you both were able to be the ones to rosen them.