Get Real: In Defense of Reality TV

On The Couch with C.T.

Ever since the writers guild went on strike, I’ve been getting comments taking me to task for writing about reality TV in my Channel Surfing pieces, suggesting that I should be eschewing the genre in support of the folks who are marching on the picket lines. But that ain’t about to happen, and I’m gonna tell you why.

To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite shows, the facts are these: I was watching — and writing about — reality television long before the strike began, and I will continue to do so long after the strike is over. Why? Simply put, reality is a fact of modern TV life and has been for longer than most people realize. Way before MTV offered us a peek into THE REAL WORLD — referred to by man as the grandpa of reality shows — back in 1992, PBS delved into the lives of a dysfunctional family who let it all hang out before the cameras for their groundbreaking series AN AMERICAN FAMILY. I can’t help wondering if the producers of that famous series would have pulled the plug had they known it would lay the groundwork which eventually would result in slightly less high-minded programming as THE ANNA NICOLE SHOW or FEAR FACTOR.

Whether the strike ends tomorrow or two years from now, reality will continue to have its place on the cultural landscape that is television programming. Might there be more of it in the months to come thanks to the strike? That seems almost certain. But I’m not sure that this is necessarily a bad thing for the striking writers. After all, they have decried the genre for years, swearing that it eventually will be the death of scripted fare. And while that hasn’t proven to be the case, perhaps an endless glut of AMERICA’S NEXT TOP FILL-IN-THE-BLANK or TOP SOMETHING-OR-OTHERS will finally do what the writers have long hoped and quench the country’s thirst to see unemployed (or unemployable) wanna-be actors pretend to be people just like you and me in order to compete for their promised 15 minutes of fame.

And let’s not forget that the writers knew all along what they were setting in motion. Surely, they were not naive enough to believe that the networks would be content to show endless DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES reruns? In making the decision to walk away from their jobs, they collectively agreed to turn over the airwaves to unscripted fare… and that meant reality television.

Make no mistake about it: I support the writers in their cause. I believe that each and every time the networks find a new way in which to sell their shows, a portion of that money should be going to the people who put words into the mouths of the actors. As they say, “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”

But as a TV addict (and for the record, I am A tv addict, but not THE one and only TV addict… please don’t take Daniel to task for giving me an outlet), I’m going to come home at the end of the night, throw myself onto the couch with a bowl of popcorn and seek out something to entertain myself with. If reality is what I’m offered, then reality is what I’ll take.

I’m not picky. I just want to be entertained. And if new episodes of my favorite shows aren’t available, then I’m going to turn elsewhere. Bring on an additional season of BIG BROTHER! They can’t get the new version of sleazefest PARADISE HOTEL back on the airwaves quick enough for me.

So yes, my Channel Surfing pieces will continue to talk about reality TV as well as sitcoms, dramas, soaps and anything else that I happen to watch while plopped in front of the TV with remote in hand. It doesn’t mean I don’t support the writers or their goals. It simply means that I’m here to talk about television, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.

Here’s hoping you’ll join me. There’s always room for one more on the couch.

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  • Jenny

    Very nicely put. :D

  • c.t.

    Thank you! frankly, I seriously expected to get my butt handed to me on a platter. I was beginning to think that maybe I was the only one who could read it for some reason! LOL