I have a confession. I am a reality TV watcher. And, believe it or not, that realization shocked me. Let me explain. When I sat down to write this blog, I had every intention to rail against the genre. In fact, I identify with the 52% of Americans who The Marist Poll discovered prefer sitcoms to reality programs.
Let’s face it, how often do you quote a reality show? (The exception, of course, is Trump’s, “You’re Fired.”) Think back. Where would we be without Ralph Kramden’s, “To the Moon, Alice,” Ricky Ricardo’s, “Lucy, you have some ‘splainin’ to do,” the Fonz’s, “Ehhh,” and Jerry Seinfeld’s, “Yada, Yada, Yada.” These memorable lines became pop culture catch phrases and contributed to the creation of pop culture icons that still entertain audiences of all ages today.
I remember being devastated as a kid when some of my favorite shows (Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss?) went off the air. As a teenager, I rarely missed a Friends episode for fear of missing the big moment when Ross and Rachel finally got together. The truth is these sitcoms invited us into a fantasy world, often provided us with a valuable lesson, and allowed us couch potatoes to escape from reality for half an hour.
Reality television has been around for awhile, but to me, the early rumblings of the reality TV revolution occurred in the 1990’s with MTV’s The Real World. But, it wasn’t until Survivor burst onto the scene nearly a decade later that the genre really took off, and with American Idol’s ratings leaving its competitors in the dust, it’s hard not to acknowledge the success of these types of shows. But, where are the lasting, meaningful memories? Where is the moral takeaway?
I guess these shows fulfill some voyeuristic need in our society, and perhaps, make us feel better about ourselves when we compare our actions to the plotting and debauchery featured in many of these shows. (I do suppose, though, witnessing the fallout from a “character’s” drunken, embarrassing behavior can provide a few lessons, but how many of those scenes are actual lapses in judgment and not some planned, half-baked attempt at achieving b-level celebrity or launching one’s acting career?)
So, that was my rant. Then, I began to examine my own viewing habits. I LOVED the first season of Survivor and tuned into the early world of Big Brother. I rushed home from work to catch American Idol’s first, second, and third seasons, and Dancing with the Stars remains a must-see for me. But, as the hype grew around many of these shows, my interest waned.
That brings us to today. Although I less frequently indulge in the bigger name reality shows (DWTS being the exception), I do watch some of the smaller ones. Most of my preferences include shows on TLC, HGTV, and the History Channel. Am I immune from the likes of Bridezillas? No, but they are my exception rather than my rule. So, I guess you could say that, when it comes to reality television, I prefer less drama-riddled broadcasts and ones from which I can actually learn something. And, that’s an important distinction to make.
Reality television is hard to miss. Production costs are far less than are those for sitcoms and dramas. So, it’s doubtful these kinds of shows will disappear. But, if you are as dissatisfied with some of the trash depicted in reality TV shows as I, and you long for the days of good old sitcoms, choose your reality TV consumption wisely. Producers will get the message, and hopefully will raise the bar when producing reality programs.