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Reality Bites ... and These Shows Prove It
OK, quick show of hands. Who, besides me, has had it Up To Here with "Jon & Kate Plus 8"? Or, as the tabloids at the grocery store checkout line would have it, "Jon & Kate Plus 8 Plus Two Teams Of Divorce Lawyers"?
It seems to me that their 15 minutes of fame are long past up. And I’m talking 15 minutes for every member of the family. Including pets.
I bring this up for a couple of reasons:
Number One, I just got back from the grocery, and all those headlines ("Jon & Kate Affairs!" "Jon & Kate Custody Battle Looms!" "Jon & Kate Are Really Aliens From The Same Planet As Elvis & Marilyn!") remain fresh in my mind.
Number Two, this morning I read a sad story about one of Hollywood’s biggest prop shops having to close because the trend toward "reality" TV means there’s no need for props, as there would be in sitcoms and dramas.
You’ll notice I put quotation marks around the world "reality." That’s because I believe "reality" TV to be one of the bigger lies perpetrated by a medium that has pulled off some whoppers in its day.
No, I am not talking about the 1969 moon landing. I know there are people out there who are convinced the whole thing was a fraud pulled off by the NASA and the Walt Disney Company. Oh please. Have you ever seen the footage of Neil Armstrong coming down the ladder? It’s grainy and blurry. Therefore, it has to be real. The Disney Company has MUCH higher production values.
Unless you’re looking at security video or something from a hidden camera, there is no such thing as "reality" TV. Once you introduce a camera into a group of people who know it is there, reality flies out the window. And it doesn’t even have to be a TV camera. Think about all those Christmas card photos your Dad made you pose for when you were a kid. Was that reality? Did you really wear elf pajamas in July? Were you known to stand in front of the fireplace, straight as a ramrod, with a sickening grin pasted on your face?
Well, congratulations. Your childhood was even weirder than mine.
Which gets us back to Jon & Kate and their herd. A brood that size isn’t going to have anything resembling a "normal" kidhood to begin with. Do you think turning them into a spectacle for millions of video voyeurs is going to help?
"Reality" shows succeed because they’re cheap to produce - see above under "no need for props" - and because they offer a no-consequences way for us to poke our noses into other people’s business. Never mind that the shows frequently make no sense ("Flavor of Love," anyone?) or that the so-called "real people" are playing roles ("Tune into "American Chopper" to watch the Teutuls yell and throw wrenches!") just as surely as the cast of a classic sitcom.
Which is what I’d rather be watching - something funny and diverting that isn’t real and doesn’t pretend to be, seeing as how it’s in black and white. Except the channel that carries them, TV Land, has begun take them out of the evening schedule. Why? Among other reasons, to run "reality" shows.
Unreal, isn’t it?
© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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