Monday, February 19, 2007

Reality TV - Are you kidding? (Rant Ahead)

A little known fact about me is that I was involved in the beginnings of what we now call "Reality TV," that nebuelous genre that deems anything reality TV as long as there wasn't a script when the show was filming - it was reality. Of course this genre has us suspend our imagination and asks us to believe that it is reality that 7 complete strangers who have no reason to be in a city other than to do this show would share an apartment in real life - not just because it was in the contract.

Reality TV has grown a great deal from its very beginnings on MTV. I remember watching 7 New Yorkers, all looking for an apartment and being brought together to live in a loft by a production company name Bunim-Murray. The only condition - every aspect of their life had to be lived on camera (within some taste). No, they were not all native New Yorkers, but they were all from NY at the time. Same thing, to a degree with Real World 2. Most people in that season were either from LA or living in LA. Real World 3 is where things started to get interesting and the video audition showing everything you would do to get on screen became the norm. While Real World 3 was probably the best season (I am biased, its the one my office was working on) it is also probably exactly where you can really see the downward spire into the muck we call Reality TV today.

Today's Reality TV seems to say "The meaner the better." and "Where's the sex! We want sex!" Now, from experience, I can say that the conversation about whether or not someone would have sex on camera started way back in the 1990s in early Real World. The meaner the better might also be attributed to someone from the RW season 3 show - Puck. Poor Puck - much misunderstood and yet purposfully putting himself out there to cause conflict. He figured out his role quickly, smart guy, and played it way too well. Always kinda wondered about Puck and where he landed. If anyone knows, please pass the info along. Thanks.

So, that's history. Now we have reality tv everywhere we turn. Its cheap - almost everyone involved is non-union. Non-scripted conflict can be better than scripted conflict because you never know where the non-scripted conflict will lead. There are a million reasons networks have decided that the American public would rather watch someone try to guess which briefcase to pick over a scripted TV show, but it mostly comes down to money. One show in particular is driving me insane today - Top Designer. Now, Bravo Cable has produced both Project Runway andTop Chef with great success. Both shows are focused on the product with the drama in the background, both topics have some relevance to everyday people. Folks gotta eat and they gotta wear clothes. Top Designer, well, let's just say my stomach turned for so many reasons. The judges are mean - even their sign off is mean "See you later, decorator"? PLEASE! That sounds like it came off the playground. Oh and how about how the designers are judged? Based on the way the show is edited, the designers are judged on their personality not by the quality of their designs. Comments like "Well, she's a little pasive aggressive" made me go "And where did you get your psychology degree in order to make a diagnosis like that on the air? I hope that poor woman saw it and presses a suit for defamation of character. So far, each designer that has been asked to leave wasn't in my opinion asked to leave because of lack of design flare. Instead they were asked to leave because the judges just didn't like them as people. Advertising someone's HIV status the week he gets booted, saying the person who gets booted this week is passive agressive, saying the original team that got booted was essentially too old, saying that the pillow Michael put into his child's bedroom turned it into a retrement home? Oh, and I haven't even gotten into the part where the voices of the judges are stilted and they seem to have made the decision well before they come into the room.

Bravo - you have several good reality shows. I think it is time to pull the plug on this one or at least send it in for a major retool. There is no need to get so cattish, petty and spiteful this early....and those were the judges!

I am not sure where Reality TV is going. I am, however, very glad I am not going there with it...

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