|when reality TV was worth watching|
I wish I could honestly say that I watch absolutely no reality TV except for TV judge shows, which are not without educational benefit (some more than others, obviously). For me to say such, however, would be nothing more than a big fat lie. It wouldn't be the first big fat lie I've ever told, but it would probably be the most pointless. Why bother lying about it? People who know me are aware than I'm not any sort of genteel intellectual. Why should I pretend that I subsist on no television other than PBS and CSPAN? Who would believe such an obvious falsehood?
For me and for my family, it all started with The Osbournes. I can't recall how long it's been since that show was on. My brother and I were arguably younger than we should have been to have been watching the show, but the program's content wasn't sexually explicit, and Matthew and I had heard, courtesy of our father, just about any word we would ever hear, or at least any word we were likely to hear on The Osbournes. I think my favorite Osbourne moment ever was when Sharon threw a ham in the driveway of their warring neighbors and said something to the effect of, "This is a model of your wife's ass." Between everyone's work or activities, watching the show together once a week was as close to quality family time as it would get for our family. After the fact, I find it both funny and ironic that the family lived for a time as next-door neighbors to Pat Boone.
I don't think there was another reality show we watched together, but we each had and have our own guilty pleasures since and presently. My dad has watched a few of those Hugh Heffner shows with scantily dressed females all over the place. He's now thoroughly hooked on Duck Dynasty.
My brother's probably watched more than the rest of us combined, but his favorites were that one where people's cars are repossessed (I just didn't find it funny), Hoarders, Duck Dynasty , and even an occasional trashy Kardashian mother ship or spin-off. His current addiction, though is one about online dating called Catfish: The TV Show. He's even persuaded me to watch it with him a few times.
He also likes Breaking Amish.
My mom has watched just enough of the Real Housewives shows to know they're too trashy and unrelatable for her tastes. She watched 19 and Counting from psychologist's perspective, trying to get inside Jim Bob's and Michelle's heads to see what would possess them to live their lives in such a way. She finally decided she would never understand it, and gave the show up. She does watch Sister Wives, which is almost equally bizarre, but she says it's the proverbial train wreck from which she cannot turn away. Even though it was a drama (Face it: all reality TV shows are dramas; otherwise, why did they need to cancel production when there was a writer's strike? Think about it.) the two of us watched Big Love together eagerly each week. Dance Moms is her guilty pleasure. She practically throws things at the television screen whenever Cathy from Cathy's Candy Apples appears. I remind my mother that it's all scripted, but it doesn't seem to help her understand or to modulate her emotions.
I watch several Judge shows, with Judge Alex being the most regular. I watch Toddlers and Tiaras, though I don't look for a knife and start cutting myself if I miss an episode. Even though the novelty has worn off, I watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo more to irritate my dad than because of any inherent desire to keep up with the famous redneck clan. I usually try to have it on in the background while I'm doing something more productive, such as practicing violin or transcribing notes from one of my classes. I watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 all the way through to the bitter end, although I drew the line at the Kate Plus 8 version. I watch Bobby Flay cooking shows even though I have no particular desire to cook. I watch My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (taking place in the British Isles) and My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding even though, with the American version, I'd be hard pressed to distinguish the American gypsies, were I to run into them at a shopping mall or anywhere else, from any other form of American white trash. I watch Untold Stories of the E.R., which is for real though partly reenacted. My dad loves to remind me that watching it is doing nothing to prepare me for a career in medicine, as the cases they actually show are so sensationalized that I'll be lucky (or unlucky, depending upon how one views it) to encounter one similar case in an entire medical career. He says hes been working ER shifts for about 25 years and has yet to encounter a single case of Costa Rican beetle larvae embedding itself under anyone's skin, much less under a bride's skin, and manifesting itself on the day of her wedding. Whatever. No one ever claimed that reality TV was supposed to be realistic.
Sociologically, what does reality TV say about us as a society? I should check to see if there's a course on the topic. I have room for an additional elective in the spring.