Saturday, February 21, 2009


People keep complaining about reality television being a blot on the airwaves like the airwaves was invented for prime time instead of the other way around.

Now I enjoy my fiction as much as the next girl, and so try to catch the news as often as possible. Used to be news was reality, but not any more. Now the entire half-hour or hour is scripted like a sit-com, with just the details changing from episode to episode, but the content is decided by market research. Need a shooting here. A danger to consumers there. Canned. Soporific.

Enter reality programs, which can surprise you when you least expect it. Even on Survivor and American Idol, the final outcome is unknown. We humans is endlessly curious about other humans, what they will do, and how they will react. Reality TV gives us a window on a world of folk beyond our small circle of family, friends, and co-workers.

Plus, a lot of these shows is truly improving to your average human's life. Take Clean Sweep on the Home Channel. I have more than one friend who has started carting off carloads to the thrift store after watching a few episodes. And the Queer Eye show's intstructions to hopeless males gives a backdrop for some girls to point out a few fine points about behavior to the guy sitting on the couch next to her eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells on the floor.

Actually, these two shows have provided a kind of couple's therapy for one duo I know. This week's hapless swain is so much worse than her guy, my friend can point and they can both laugh. But inside he's learning. And then the sweep people bring their broom to a closet worse than hers and he can pat her hand and promise her they will be happier in the end. And they are.

More importantly, while seeming to deal with externals, my friends actually learn about how to be better to each other. He puts out more effort just to make her happy, and she lets go of baggage that she has been saving just in case. And life imitates television.

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