The reality of TV
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
Several weeks ago I was sitting around with a few good friends, watching some of the most God-awful TV crap we could find and having a hoot about it. At some point, The Simple Life found its way onto the screen. For those who are unaware, the show featured Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie doing minimum wage jobs. Whether it was due to the company or my level of inebriation, I was entertained; and I was more or less horrified with myself, as a result.
Reflecting upon it later, though The Simple Life is definitely one of the worst, I have to broaden my scope to include all reality TV. Why do we watch it? Why do we watch other people humiliate themselves or subject themselves to harsh conditions and challenges? Written like this, watchers come off a bit base and boorish.
But is it really so baffling? Human beings are curious creatures. Reality shows offer a glimpse into other people’s lives. While stating that society is made up of natural voyeurs seems a little disturbing, isn’t that essentially what’s going on?
The irony is that most of reality TV isn’t real, and one can discern this by the simple fact that people genuinely find it entertaining. Real life isn’t always fun to watch. Seeing Bob go to the office at seven in the morning, do some work, grab lunch from his usual place, work some more, and then go home is hardly eyes-glued-to-the-screen programming. Which leads to the real question: are people aware they’re being duped and go ahead with it anyway, or has the boob tube done what our mothers have always warned of and turned brains to mush?
Example: Mantracker. Fun show. I used to love it. I get the draw. A guy who looks like Sean Connery on a horse tracking down two elusive competitors through difficult terrain in varying weather conditions. Thrilling! You see the chase every step of the way, with both sides feeling the pressure of the situation and struggling through. But Mantracker was ruined for me the day I decided to take two seconds to consider what was going on. All these close-ups of the runners and the trackers at the same time, indicating that the filming is being done by a third party. Now, I’m no expert here, but for the quality of video and audio on the program, you would probably require a decent camera and mic. Such equipment is likely a burden and is less than ideal for full out dashes across open fields while evading capture. Along with this, one has to take into consideration how the cameraman (though likely plural) would have to be as fit as the subjects being filmed. And a final note that—again, no expert here—if I were a tracker I imagine I’d appreciate an extra set of footprints to follow.
In the end, producers will continue to put out garbage and viewers will continue to flock to their screens like hipsters to American Apparel. While irrelevant to the money makers, the “why” of it all should still invite our introspection as a society.