Monday, August 6, 2007

Who Watches This Crap?

While I'm sure there is no shortage of rambling phillipics on the sad state of entertainment in America today as a result of reality television, I'm also sure that most of them don't refer to themselves as "philipics." So, I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway.
Today, they're apparently shooting "America's Got Talent" on my lot. Fine. Whatever. Unfortunately, this means the area surrounding my office is crowded with slack-jawed idiots. You can pick them out from a block away. They're the ones wandering around like they've never been outside of their homes before, staring and pointing and driving 3 miles an hour down Venture Boulevard. They walk across the street at a leisurely pace, gaping and gawking, hoping to see some minor celebrity at the McDonald's, all the while oblivious to the traffic they are blocking; every driver about 3 seconds from running them over. They are either dressed pathetically sloppily or WAY too nice to be going to a television taping, like this is the biggest event of their lives. These are the people who are not content to sit at home and waste an hour of their life watching a crappy reality competition on TV, they have to take an entire day of their lives (a Monday, mind you; most people are working) and watch the same crap sandwich in person. And to make matters worse, I was told when I came back from lunch that my RESERVED parking space may not be available because apparently these morons can't follow simple directions and park in the general spaces on the 4th and 5th floors. Apparently, they just think they're at the mall and can't be bothered not to park in the first space they see, regardless of whether it says "SPACE RESERVED FOR E. SELZER- CW FILMS." Thankfully, no one had taken my spot or I would have left a rather nasty note.
I believe that these people are not fans of reality television, they are products of it. Networks like to make a big deal of the fact that they are putting out terrible reality programs because people watch them. I think this gives people too much credit. If you took every reality program off the air, people wouldn't stop watching television. If every network made the blanket decision to stick to scripted shows, the overall number of people would not change. People will watch what they are told to watch. So, I see reality television as a vast conspiracy to dumb down the American people. If you want to keep a civilization in submission, the first thing you do is keep them from getting educated. Intelligence is the main enemy of tyranny. I don't think it's a coincidence that the first season of Survivor was the year that people allegedly elected George Bush president. I'm just saying.
Now, I'm not one of those people who claims that television used to be a golden font of entertainment and it's all gone to hell. There's always been crappy TV. And, to be fair, there's a lot of REALLY good TV on right now (The Office, 30 Rock, Lost, Heroes, anything on HBO). But reality isn't just bad television, it's stupid television. It talks down to the viewer and removes any critical thinking that standard storytelling evokes. It tells the audience that they must personally get involved to affect the outcome of the show. You don't have to think about anything, you just have to feel something. "I like that guy better than that girl! I want that suitcase, not that one." When was the last time anyone turned off one of these shows and said, "Wow, that really gave me something to think about." Art (and yes, I'm including television as art), should be a thought-provoking reflection on society. If reality TV is a reflection of society, we might as well just kill ourselves now. I don't want to believe that we're all such vapid, greedy, fame whores. I try to give the average citizen credit for having some amount of intelligence. And yet...
Do me a favor. Go watch an episode of "Dora the Explorer" or any current children's show. The obsession in the industry right now is to make these shows more "interactive" for kids. Dora (or Mickey or whoever) will address your kids directly; they will ask questions, ask for help, and praise them whether they actually do anything or not. The idea is to get the kids involved in the show, and for the six and under set, this strategy makes a lot of sense. But this is basically the same strategy they use with these reality shows, specifically, the reality competitions. "Call in and vote so YOU can change the outcome of the show! Hooray! You did it!" With your toddler, it's cute. But isn't it insulting that major television networks think your brain is essentially the same as that of a six year old? I'm insulted, and I don't even watch. Create characters that get me involved in your show. Don't pander to me and tell me that my watching has an impact on the show (Spoiler Alert- It doesn't. The networks pick the winners and then manipulate the shows so that you feel the same way that they want you to feel. And that's assuming that they even look at the votes; which, in fact, they probably don't). Please, television networks, start treating us like adults and put some damn effort into your programming.

1 comment:

  1. In the 50's, without having a meeting or anything, all of the major networks hit on pretty much the same strategy to make game shows more interesting - rig 'em. At least no one had to eat slugs in those shows. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but you'd really think that people would know by now that everything on TV is made for TV. There's no reality.

    On the other side of the coin, I'm pretty sure every single scene in the Gene Simmons reality show is staged - you can pretty much tell. Then again, to complain that anything Gene Simmons does is phony is sort of to miss the point.