Reality (sic) TV

‘Reality’ TV is the opposite of reality. It is fiction masquerading as reality.

The cameras are never forgotten by those present, even though we viewers are supposed to pretend the camera crew’s presence doesn’t affect how the people on the show behave.

The inside scoop is all of the scenes portrayed on these shows are basically scripted, even if the dialog isn’t (and often it is). The people on these shows aren’t playing themselves; they’re amateur B- or C-grade actors pretending to be someone we’re supposed to think they’re exactly like in real-life.

Les Stroud of "Survivorman."

Les Stroud of “Survivorman.”

Those people on the ‘survival’ reality shows are never in any real danger, because there are safety crews. Even the guy I actually like and have learned some useful tips from, Les Stroud, even though he shoots all his own video, nevertheless doesn’t record his regular daily contacts with his safety crews. Sure, he puts himself in some very uncomfortable situations, but always in the back of his mind is the comforting knowledge that escape is one radio call away. Which he’s done on more than a few occasions when a bad situation became a little too ‘real.’ (CORRECTION: Mr. Stroud has reached out to me personally and said (1) he is not in daily contact with his safety teams and (2) he has not ever actually had to ask for rescue. Mea culpa.)

And the guys on the fishing boats aren’t actually desperate for that ‘last catch of the season’ — because as long as they bluster all macho-style for the cameras, they can count on the TV syndication checks to tide them over. The ‘homesteaders’ in Alaska mostly put on little vignette scenes to show what they would’ve done 20-odd years ago before the Discover channel showed up and gave ’em enough money to live comfortably (and usually elsewhere) whenever the cameras are turned off.

(For instance, it is never EVER mentioned that the Kilcher homestead on Kachemak Bay is a mere 5 miles or so from the town of Homer, Alaska, population 5,000, with dozens of stores, restaurants, and attractions; and with Kenai, an even bigger town with a Walmart and Home Depot, another hour or so up the coast on Hwy 1. Oh no — those folks are living on the frontier! “Have to kill that bear or go hungry… ‘cuz the Safeway in Homer might be short on ground beef and frozen pizzas this week.” (/snark))*

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And these ‘ethnic’ reality shows, that John has written about, are nothing but voyeuristic soap operas, where the actors are told to behave outrageously and stereotypically by the producers and show-runners — because NORMAL is repetitive and boring. They’re instructed to ham it up as much as possible. The shows are as real as a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game, or any TV wrestling match.

It’s just trash TV, ‘Potemkin Village’ shows. Trash sells, and the TV producers like ‘reality’ (sic) shows because they’re crazy-cheap to make. It’s the fast-food version of entertainment. You think maybe you’re consuming something genuine, but afterwards you just feel numb, bloated, and vaguely dirty.

* = I know a fair amount about the survival-ish / homesteading shows because my wife is into them, and sometimes we watch together, because not everything is about the shows I’d prefer. ;-)


Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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