I have to preface this story by saying I'm obviously biased. I'm not a fan of reality TV, and have been holding my head in pain over it for years.
Every time you think it's finally gonna collapse, it keeps going strong, usually with a show even more insufferable than the last.
The night they did Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, a friend of mine called me, stunned: "Are you watching TV right now? Network has come to life."
He was referring to the brilliant 1976 drama that becomes more prophetic every day. It portrays a network willing to do anything for ratings, even kill someone on live TV, and of course you probably know the famous scene where the newscaster goes mad, ranting, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore," and he becomes the hottest thing in television. (I won't insult your intelligence by making the obvious Charlie Sheen comparison a two year old could point out.)
So of course you can probably guess I've been rolling my eyes about the latest silliness over who's going to stay, and who could be leaving on Jersey Shore, which I've only seen a few clips of in my life, mainly Snooki getting punched out at the bar, a fight on the boardwalk, and J-Wow slapping one of the guys around. I think it's safe to say I've seen all the show has to offer, and like most kung-fu or porno films, you've seen one, you've pretty much seen 'em all.
I've also found the whole thing of the Shore troupe possibly being replaced, this guy might leave, that guy might leave, extremely silly, much like the whole Two and a Half Men debacle, and how it tied up the media's attention like it was a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Whether either show stays or goes, the world will still keep turning for me, and I've got far more important things to worry about every day for sure.
Also in all honesty, I do indeed enjoy some reality TV here and there. I liked the first several seasons of MTV's The Real World until the cast members got too narcissistic and self-absorbed for me to watch it anymore. I also love Intervention, which has taught me, and I'm sure many other people, about the nature of addiction, and why it's so difficult to treat.
What I've never liked about a lot of reality TV is the freak shownature of it in the sense of, watch how pathetic these people are, and feel better about yourself. I also think it sends a bad message of entitlement for younger people, and the wrong message that it's okay to be an idiot, because some day a camera might follow you around making a fool of yourself, and you can live the Warholian ideal of having your fifteen minutes of fame for no discernible reason.
See, now I'm sounding like the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get out of his yard.
I certainly would never advocate this stuff should be abolished (although it would be nice), and if people want to watch it and enjoy it, knock yourself out. It's like writer David Sheff recently told TG about violent video games: Should they be banned?
No, but people should do better. I also paraphrase the late Norman Mailer when he reviewed the controversial best-seller American Psycho: Let it be shown, let it be seen, don't ask me in a million years to defend it.