Apr 29, 2008

There's nothing funny about reality TV

by Brandon Gallagher
At this point in our existence, reality television has taken over our channels and invaded our brains. I have given reality television its fair chance to impress me, and time and time again it has failed. It all began in the early ‘90s when MTV created “The Real World.” I never cared what seven strangers picked to live in a house together did, but apparently I was alone in my apathy. I was not allowed to watch MTV at the time anyway, which at this point in my life could possibly be the single most important thing my parents ever did for me. Oh, I still watched it occasionally, and by occasionally I mean every second that my parents were not in the room with me, but I viewed the programming from a more analytical perspective. What is bad about this programming? Loose morals, objectification of women, seductive dancing — my parents were right. MTV was destroying my moral compass. So, like any good son, I stopped watching MTV. “The Real World” went on to spawn the whole reality television movement that we all now must continuously endure, and I went on to watch shows that my family watched, like “Matlock” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” I work at night, so I am not often at home to watch the network television offerings of the present day. I do, however, go over to my friends’ houses to watch TV with them, and they definitely watch reality TV. “Oh, come over! It is ‘American Idol’ night, and we recorded ‘The Hills’ last night, too. Then we can catch last week’s ‘Top Chef,’ in case you have not seen it yet,” they say. Reluctantly, I go over and watch. I find it interesting how my friends and family who watch this type of programming always have to preface the concept of the show for me and then compare it to a reality TV show (that I also do not care about) that shares common concepts, as if that makes the show somehow less ridiculous. My parents try to sell me on some of their favorite reality programs. “Celebrity Apprentice” seems to be their current favorite. I do not care about these shows. The people on these shows are either greedy, desperate, ignorant, lacking in talent or cast because of attractiveness, sexuality, race, gender or marketability. I would rather watch QVC on mute than sit for two hours and watch Donald Trump try to intimidate people who blatantly chose to be intimidated and humiliated in front of the entire nation in an effort to find fame or money. Whatever happened to shows that were fake? They were funnier. They were more entertaining. They caused the entire nation to have deep, philosophical discussions over who shot J.R. Ewing, who, by the way, totally deserved it. There were moral lessons in shows. There were underlying messages and even social commentary interwoven into some of the more popular TV shows. I learned the importance of having really cool hair from Uncle Jesse on “Full House”. I learned that being rich is all that matters from “The OC.” I learned that a lot can happen in 24 hours to Jack Bauer from “24.” I have to admit, I kind of have a crush on those girls from “The Hills,” but the thing that makes me feel better is knowing that “The Hills” is the most scripted “reality” show in the history of TV. So if everyone would just stop watching all of these reality shows, maybe the writers could start writing good, old-fashioned fake shows again. If not, Jack Bauer and Uncle Jesse will show up at your house and beat you up. Contact Brandon Gallagher bmgallagher@liberty.edu.
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