Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In Defense of Reality TV

It's a hard knock life for reality TV. People looo-ooo-ooove to trash talk this allegedly trashy brand of TV, and they love to trash talk the people who watch it.

But I’m here to admit to the world that I LOVE REALITY TV AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT.

In some ways, I feel as though I should be in hiding. Or in a support group. Reality TV does seem like the ditzy cheerleader of daily programming, and it’s as addictive as Doritos. But to counter those who oppose my one true love, I would like to submit this highly technical and fact-based statement:


And here are the reasons why…

1. It teaches you stuff.
            I never knew what geoduck was before Top Chef, did you?

2. Life is unscripted.
            Scripted TV shows imitate natural dialogue and speech patterns—so why not skip the middleman and listen to the real thing? Sure, there’s some prompting from producers in reality TV, but there is also a surplus of spontaneity. TLC producers can encourage Honey Boo Boo to say, “You’d betta redneckognize!” but they could never have predicted the endearing moment in which she accidentally sneezed two snot rockets out of her nose, covered her face with her hands, and sat there in silence for a full 70 seconds, unsure what to do next. Oh Honey Boo Boo, you made me love you.

3. It opens your world.
            I knew that there were women in the world who were connected to the mob, but I could never have imagined what they did while their husbands were “away” until I saw Mob Wives. I know there are people who drink too much and spray tan and hook up with juicehead guidos, but I could never have envisioned it until I saw Jersey Shore. I know there are people who sell antique pistols that have been family heirlooms since the American Revolution to finance their gambling habits, but I didn’t realize how sad and desperate they actually are until I saw Pawn Stars

4. It helps you live vicariously through others.
            I will never live in a villa on the South of France, but when I watch House Hunters International, I can feel the sun on my face as I enjoy wine and cheese on the veranda with an ex-pat family of four who wanted a change of lifestyle so they moved to France, where the wife teaches yoga nearby, the husband works remotely in the home office that was one of their must-haves, and their two adorable little girls go to French school and learn to say cute things like, "Mamá!" and "Papá!"

5. It provides (often negative) examples of conflict resolution.
            Thanks to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I now know that as tempting as it may be, you should neither tell people to STFU nor send a cease and desist letter. Friends don't sue friends. (Except when they do.)

6. It gives you tons of supplemental reading material.
            I don’t love watching The Bachelor. (Sorry, Chris Harrison!) But I do love reading show recaps on Vulture and EW and discussing them with my friends. If you haven’t read them (and you should), they are lengthy, informative, and pithy weekly show descriptions so detailed that they often require rereading to pick up on all the hilarious allusions and inside jokes. In short, they are written as if your super smart gay BFF is commenting on the show as you’re watching together.

And a big welcome back to you, Sean Lowe! You're looking as buff and rosy-hued as ever. I suppose a few months relaxing at home in Dallas—or, even better, in your niece's giant pink princess playhouse emporium—would soothe anyone's broken heart. (And of course, never underestimate the healing power of schadenfreude.) Though Sean's pecs, lats, delts, and biceps have clearly lost the will to cover themselves after getting dumped by Emily, the newly-minted Bachelor refuses to let this slow down his pre-‘journey’ training regimen. ‘I know it's going to be physically exhausting,’ says Shirted Confessional Sean, while Sweaty Shirtless Sean towels off after a set of bicep curls. 'I might go through that same heartache that I experienced with Emily.'”

7. Schadenfreude
            Sometimes it really does feel good to laugh at someone else’s misfortune. When The Situation headbutts a wall while drunk on Jersey Shore, or Tierra cries her black mascara into a KISS-like frenzy on on The Bachelor, or Kourtney or Khloe or Kim start a kollection of klothing at Kmart (a store they would’ve previously never set an orange toe in) on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, it takes you out of your own world. It makes you forget that you’re collecting unemployment even though you have a master’s degree.

8. You can learn new skills.
            As a result of watching Sweet Genius, Income Property, Hoarders, and Shark Tank, I am now a chef, an interior designer/handyman, a professional organizer, and an entrepreneur. Just try me.

9. It reassures you that you can handle life’s difficulties.
            Regardless of circumstances, many reality shows have feel-good endings that demonstrate a dynamic change in the central character…or they show us how dumb you look when you make the same boneheaded mistakes over and over again. If, like Deena from Jersey Shore, you have a few too many cocktails and get thrown in the drunk tank, your parents will come to your rescue; although they may yell at you, they will always love you. Just look at the lesson she learned, "I was just trying to dance on the street. Clearly you can't do that, and I actually got in trouble for not using sidewalks. ... That was my charge. So now I know: Don't dance in the street." Happy Meatball Day, Deena!

10. It instills a can-do attitude.
            You’re obviously more intelligent than anyone on these programs, so reality TV makes you feel that if those morons can star in their own shows and become rich and famous, so can you. It’s the American way. So relax, drink it in, and thank your lucky DVRs that you live in a country where anyone--and I mean anyone--can become a star.

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