#5 – You can’t spell “overrated” without TV.
Hey, look! It’s another volume of “I’m JUST Sayin…”, the opinion column that begs the question: “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” Has it been two months already??? Well, no, but I admit to fallin’ WAAAAAY behind on this particular project. Hey, I write a daily column over there in the Jungle, and even a man of my stature can only type and whine SO MUCH during one 24 hour period. Having said that, I’ll reiterate what it am I do here. This is the place where I whine and complain about things that bug me; rant and rave incessantly about the things I like; generally foist my opinions as “The Whole Truth,” but still try to leave ya the room to say “That Cobra guy’s bug-@#$@# crazy”, all while spinning plates on both hands, and balancing a soccer ball on the tip of my nose.
Take THAT, PWTorch.com!
In any case, today’s TOPIC is television, the CATEGORY is “Free-Floating Hostility,” and the course level is 202. I’m your instructor, Da Mighty King Cobra, feel free to call me if the homework is too hard… I won’t help, but it’s always nice to vent, and we could mebbe share some pizza rolls or something. Today’s Lecture Topic:
Sure, it’s well-covered ground, but WHY is so much of Reality TV completely devoid of any form of reality? Shouldn’t something CALLED ‘reality entertainment’ contain some of EITHER???
There have been a LOT of complaints about the Reality genre, and any Seinfeld-imitator worth his salt has added the “Survivor” jokes to his “Gilligan’s Island,” “Airline Food,” “Wife On Period,” and “What’s The Deal With Oprah?” arsenal. I doubt that ANYONE would argue that the Reality TV currently being offered is SO FAR REMOVED from reality that the people ACTUALLY HAVE BECOME TWO-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTERS. Actually, more to the point, they’re just canny enough to *become* characters, knowing that that makes for more screen time.
I bring this up after watching “The Surreal Life,” where Chyna and X-Pac argued in the garden for fourteen minutes, and Chyna continuously made the point that he was never like this “except on TV!” Apparently, in the lost biblical tome “The Epistle of X-Pac To The Jabronies,” the best way to make nice with your partner of choice is to wait until she has an audience and a show of her own, then horn in and try and take over the program. Everybody loves the Fonzie, right? Urkel RULED Family Matters, so this HAS to work! Cause nothing proves your love more than a drunken rant in front of fourteen teamsters and a creepy producer girl motioning for you to “Stretch for the break, then you can kiss and make up!”
Let me start by saying, I love Chyna, and would probably eat DIRT if she endorsed it, even though she’s pretty much a certifiable loon with a plastic surgery fetish who may or may not have swallowed more HGH than I have M&M’s… But this was so sad, so pathetic, so very frightening and personal that I had to switch over to Cartoon Network and watch Master Shake abuse that poor dumb hamburger chunk…
What was most depressing wasn’t that it was on television (Hell, the medium has a LONG history of presenting human suffering and emotional torture as entertainment. Remember “Twenty-One?”) It wasn’t that Chyna and X-Pac were apparently only able to have this discussion in front of cameras (after all, they’re both notorious attention hounds who have fallen out of the public spotlight, and the crux of their relationship seems to be a statement of “SCREW YOU ALL, WE ONLY NEED EACH OTHER!!! and booze).
The part that most depressed me was that I found myself wondering… Scratch that. I found myself *almost CARING* what happened next… It was like “Tod Browning’s As The World Turns,” a purple testament to love and life among the circus geeks. Seriously, I had to go and buy another copy of “The Catcher in the Rye,” and re-watch the commentary track of Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” to regain my Indy intellectual street cred. It was horrifying. Why do I hate reality TV? Much like Dave Sim, I can’t say I HATE it. Hate tends to imply a lot more connection than I actually have to the material. I wouldn’t even say I DISLIKE the genre, I just no longer understand more than five minutes of it at a time… much like Dave Sim.
Remember “The Real World?” I used to love that mess. Back in ’91, I thought it was gripping docudrama, where they took kids from different backgrounds, different realities, who had different goals and dreams, and made them interact. Okay, to be honest, FORCED ’em to interact. Sure, there was the ham-handed presence of cameras and sound men, but that was part of the fun! They were clearly visible, just like any documentary show… And in the first season, Southern Belle Julie and Angry African-American Kevin clashed, and the producers realized…
“This crap might sell! Quick, we need another Southern Belle and Angry Young Man!”
Season Two switched it up by making the Southern Belle a boy, and the Angry girl a Muslim named Tami, but they added another twist: Let’s lock them up in a camper for five days and FORCE the conflict!!! That’s brilliant!!! Season three added the twist of Pedro, the brilliant activist and HIV educator (marking the last time anybody on the show seemed to have any goal other than “LOOK AT MEEEE!!!!”), but they smartly balanced his intellectual approach (It won’t play in Peoria, Dan…) with the “Doodoo Kaka, I’m EDGY!! See how edgy I am, I snotted in the peanut butter!!” presence of Puck. To be frank, I blame Puck for the whole goddamn reality TV schmozz, the little cock-rocket…
By season five, it was all buzzwords: Every season had “Activist Gay Kid,” and “Southern Ignorant Kid,” and “Idiot Party Kid,” and especially “Snotty Uppercrust Kid.” It was like the old traveling carnival shows, where the Bearded Lady and the Sword Swallowing Man left the Midway and went out the Waffle House for fries, except in the carnival, the freaks weren’t as extreme. Today’s Reality TV has given us DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL MESSAGES in bite-size format, making a mockery of deep philosophy AND, sadly, of Bite Size. You know you’re screwed when your intellectual level drops below that of the mini-bag of “Almond Joy” at the Dollar General Store. Worst of all, is that these days each new season of “The Real World” consists of idiot teenagers who KNOW what it’s about, who craft their own character in an attempt to get air-time, carefully calculating each move like they’re building an Aurora model, with nearly as clear and obvious a blueprint.
So, what have *I* learned from reality TV?
“American Idol” has taught me that music-types are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.
“The Apprentice” has taught me that business-types are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.
“The Surreal Life” has taught me that Media Has-Beens are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.
“America’s Top Model” has taught me that fashion-industry-types are greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiots.
“Survivor” has taught me that the average man-on-the-street is a greedy, stupid, petty, vicious idiot.
“Tough Enough” taught me that wrestling-industry-types are greedy, stupid, petty, MACHO, vicious idiots who’ll $#!+ in your handbag.
All told, it’s quite a menu of glamour, illusion, bullshit, and wicked editing to behold… The fact is, this type of programming hasn’t had any edge at all since the first season of “The Joe Schmoe Show.” Interestingly, this was the last time more than fifty people watched anything on Spike TV that didn’t feature creative control by Paul Levesque… Most frightening to me is the fact that certain networks (I’m lookin’ at YOU, Fox… And don’t get so damn cocky, VH-1, you’re in my radar, too!) apparently intend to build their entire schedule on this crap. The more I watch, the more I think that maybe the networks have hit on the perfect show… Maybe the fact that these programs continue to sell, and that “The Bachelor” is now back with another season of crap is a clear and prominent sign…
Maybe they’re telling us that they’ve figured out the lost Holy Grail of Television, hidden for ten years in a jar of Regis Philbin’s ass-cream… Written on parchment made of kidskin, in the language of ancient entertainers, it speaks the one truth of any media that requires an audience, a truth that dates back to William Shakespeare and beyond; to the first caveman who tripped on dinosaur feces in front of a crowd of people, and kinda liked the attention he got:
The Average Viewer is a stupid, petty, vicious, voyeuristic idiot, and somewhere, deep inside us, we really believe that “what happens after the next break is the most SHOCKING moment in television history!”
However, that doesn’t excuse giving Paris Hilton airtime…. Unless she’s co-starring with Shannon Doherty, Jessica Simpson, The Olsen Twins, and Cindy Margolis, and the show is called “Girls You Want To Stuff Head-First Down A Sewage Pipe Just To Hear Their Echoey Screams.”
Hell, *I’d* tune in…