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Reality Based Communities

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I lost all interest in Survivor when I found out that it was not a show about who could survive longest in primitive conditions, but one in which staying on the island or leaving was dependent on being voted off or not. 

Call me cynical, but I was fairly sure I knew what that meant–no middle aged woman would ever win the thing, because the middle aged woman would be the first one voted off. 

And, in the first couple of seasons, from what little I could see, I was absolutely right.

Mostly, I don’t understand reality TV, in spite of the fact that I just spent nearly a year watching as much of it as I could, because next year’s  Gregor will be set at a reality TV show.

Okay, it’s a great set-up for a fair play mystery. You’ve got a bunch of people stuck together in a house…

The one show I liked at all is called America’s Next Top Model, which seemed to be mostly like a game show with extras.  It also intrigued me that people who came out of that show actually managed to get careers, as do people who come out of American Idol–and big ones, too. 

These seems to be something incredibly right about that–that there should be some avenue through which people who are not born connected to the entertainment professions can get their work seen and heard by people who probably are anxious to hire them. 

But I think the whole reality show phenomenon is a case of “something else.”  For whatever reason, television seems to always be stuck in a rut–the endless parade of detective shows and doctor shows is almost mind numbing.  The West Wing was a good enough show, but I think it benefited from the fact that it was simply something else.  I’m fairly sure that Dallas benefited from the same thing in its time.

Surely, this has got to hold for books, too–that after hundreds of versions of the same thing, over and over again, people just get hungry for something else. 

Anything else.

I know a lot of fans of mysteries who never read anything else, don’t want to read anything else, and will go on reading what they read until they die, but the general public can’t be that dedicated.

Eventually, a diet of all one thing gets boring for anybody–not because the  books (or shows) are bad, just because they’re what we’ve been doing for a really long time.

And I think, as well, that the something else doesn’t have to be all that good, as long as it constitutes a change of pace.

I’ve become totally fascinated with one called Megan Wants a Millionaire.

At first, my interest was mostly of the train wreck kind.  The idea of this was that Megan  Houseman, who had been on two Rock of Love cycles, was now going to have a cycle of her own, finding herself a man to marry who had at least a million dollars. 

The concept by itself was staggering, but the level of stupid was really something like a kind of genius–if this woman and her two best friends (who appeared to help her at one point) pooled their IQs, they couldn’t have come up with a three digit number.

What Megan seems to have going for her that is supposed to make some millionaire want to marry her is really blonde hair, a lot of perkiness, and breast implants the size of Lake Michigan.

What really got my attention, though, was what put a stop to the show, at least for the moment.  One of the millionaires involved, an investment banker named Ryan Jenkins, is being “sought by the police” in the murder of a swimsuit model named Jasmine Fiore, whose body was found in a suticase in a trash bin.

Okay, by now, they may have picked him up.  But Megan Wans a Millionaire wasn’t his only show for VH1.  Jenkins also appeared on I Love Money–except “appeared” may be the wrong word, since the season (season 3) he filmed hasn’t aired yet.  Now people are saying that it may never air at all, because Jenkins is supposed to have told his friends that he won that season.

I wonder, continually, who volunteers to go on these things–not the quasi-game shows, like American Idol or ANTM, but the dating shows, the humiliation shows (which is what Money seems to be), the get-everybody-in-a-house-and-film-them-24/7.

I don’t think  I know the answer to that yet, but maybe next year somebody could run an America’s Next Great Detective show, and investigate all the conestants on the rest of them.

Written by janeh

September 7th, 2009 at 7:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Reality Based Communities'

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  1. I think you missed the “let’s get everyone in an ‘isolated’ (+ camera crews etc) spot and actively encourage them to replicate the spitefulness of a junior high clique and the moral standards of one of the worse Borgias” type. That’s where Survivor and Big Brother lost me. I don’t think I even got as far with Big Brother as I did with Survivor, and I don’t think I’ve watched any one Survivor show from beginning to end. That thing (Big Brother) is going into some incredible number of years in the UK. *Someone* must care about the spiteful tittle-tattle and machinations of a bunch of strangers. Oh, well.

    I do sometimes like these shows where they fix up houses (but not that one where they do it for charity, patting themselves on the back, and coming up with really grotesquely big fancy houses) or sometimes people’s financial problems or fashion problems (except for the ones where they *all* have plastic surgery, even on perfectly nice-looking chins and noses and so on. I do know that no breasts at all are “perfectly nice-looking” to some plastic surgeons and their customers).

    Jenkins was Canadian. I say ‘was’ because he was found hanging in a hotel room in BC. He sneaked across the border, probably by boat, and was dropped off there by a woman who was first rumoured to be a prostitute, and then said to be a step-sister. Some relatives and I think an ex are still saying that he was a sweet harmless guy who could never have done what he’s accused of doing. There’s a photo of him and his alleged victim in happier times that showed up on most of the stories. Now, that’s a woman who looked enhanced. No wonder they could identify her by her implant serial numbers. I’ve never understood the willingness to have surgery for cosmetic reasons. But then, I’m a wimp when it comes to pain and also to being completely unconscious and helpless while someone cuts me up. Most of these people were probably prettier than average before they got all these enhancements.

    That’s what they were called in an unrelated article on a porn star trying to make it in the mainstream. The author noticed with suprise that she looked like the girl next door, not “surgically enhanced”.


    7 Sep 09 at 9:11 am

  2. Okay, this is about as far from reality as one can get…we watched “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus” last night. Holy crap. It’s everything Jane said, and more. I urge anyone who gets the Syfy (stupid rename of SciFi) channel to watch it.

    Primarily because much of it was filmed in my local area in Long Beach. The scenes supposedly at SF international airport? Right down on the beach near one of our favorite restaurants in Belmont Shore. I spotted a distinctive sign and said “wait a minute! I know where that is!” I guess they thought people wouldn’t notice that there are no hills around the water, as there should be in the SF Bay area. Much of the rest of it could have been filmed here as well, in local refineries (the aforementioned “Treasure Island” (what?)), oh and the big dome? That’s in the harbor near the Queen Mary. In fact, in one beach scene, you can see the red stack on the QM in the lower right behind the characters. All the beach scenes are on our beaches.

    Anyway, returning to Jane’s commentary, they made up branches of the military that have never existed, apparently the bridges, control rooms and engine rooms (all the same in this movie) of all naval destroyers, American AND Japanese submarines are exactly the same, and in the scene where the shark bites an airliner out of the air, it’s never explained if he jumped 30,000 feet in the air or what, as there is *no mention on the news* of the loss of an airliner.

    Oh, and the monsters can apparently teleport from the Pacific to “Off Finland” in minutes. Did they not know Finland is near the North Sea? Dunno, cause the subs followed them. I think. I got dizzy from laughing so hard after a while.

    Count the number of times a characters screams “NNNOOOOoooo!!!” either before they’re eaten, or after somebody else is. The dialog is classic. The science is really really bad. The scene of pour things into other things in the lab is a scream. Why, we asked, do the “pheromones” (the science buzzwords they use to barely explain the mcguffin) glow? Um. We dunno. Nobody else does either.

    Really. It’s the kind of entertainingly Bad Movie you thought they didn’t make any more. It’s like they studied hard to make EVERY SINGLE MOMENT as scientifically unsound, dramatically overwrought, and unintentionally hilarious as possible while simultaneously taking themselves wayyyy too seriously. An Instant Classic, as they say.

    Thank you, Jane.


    7 Sep 09 at 1:14 pm

  3. So why would anyone want to be humiliated–or humiliate themselves–on television? Well, in descending order of sanity, sometimes there’s money, and (usually false) hints of more. Some seriously overestimate their chances of looking good before a camera. And then there are people who just HAVE to have an audience–as though they weren’t really there unless someone else is watching. I’d bet heavy on that last. We’re living in a world in which some students will continually broadcast whatever is going on in their dorm rooms over the Net.

    As for the whole business of “reality” television, I believe it can go on–or not–without me. Fiction, after all, is based on the notion that reality can be improved on, and I am not prepared to trade Goldman or Epstein Brothers dialogue for whatever an actor can think up on his own. Likewise, the singers and dancers would surely be better for being sorted and trained and THEN presented to paying audiences. All the world is not really a stage. There is good reason for some activities to be backstage or off in the wings.

    I’ll make an exception for “This Old House” which really did try to be helpful and informative–but what does it say for the rest of them that “trying to be helpful and informative” was exceptional to unique behavior?


    7 Sep 09 at 3:06 pm

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