“Reality” Television

This winter has been an embarrassment of riches for me! In addition to watching Shadowhunters and The Magicians (and Downton Abbey), I’ve also added London Spy (airing on BBC America) and War and Peace (A BBC production airing on Lifetime) to the queue. I won’t watch War and Peace until I’ve read the book–I hope to get to it in a week–but London Spy is amazing. I’ve watched two episodes so far and it’s different from anything I’ve seen before. Two men start a romance but one disappears suddenly, leaving the other to unravel his life. It’s very quiet, with momentous music occurring only once or twice an episode.

I love scripted drama, and it seems to be falling back into favor in Hollywood.

I’ve never taken to reality shows, with the exception of one season of Project Runway in which Christian Siriano won. I’ve never watched Survivor or even American Idol. I’ve never kept up with the Kardashians or followed a season of the Real Housewives. I don’t even watch HGTV any more. The kids tend to watch Mythbusters and How It’s Made, along with whatever is on NatGeo or Animal Planet.

To me, reality television is not reality. Reality is boring!

Survivor and Project Runway are games that producers easily can manipulate. American Idol is a way for music companies to determine where in the country certain kinds of music and artists are most popular. The underlying premise of every iteration of the Real Housewives is that women can’t be friends because they’re too busy competing with each other. I swear people tune into the Kardashians to find out what makes them all millionaires.

Every single one of the shows are edited and scripted in its own way. Producers sift through reams of footage and piece together a storyline, or they manipulate the contestants/stars of the show to make a minor misunderstanding a thousand times more dramatic.

I used to watch HGTV when the housing bubble was at its most inflated and we had just purchased our first home. I quickly learned that the flipping shows didn’t reveal what the renovated home actually sold for and the interior design shows didn’t accurately depict any delays or overages that come with any project.

I know a handful of people who religiously watch HGTV, and what’s most surprising to me is that they come to my home and criticize my design choices–because as avid HGTV acolytes they are now experts in design–yet haven’t undertaken any of their own home design projects at all. I think a lot of it has to do with the indecisive nature of their personalities; there are so many choices for something like tile that an entire bathroom project must seem intimidating. But, again, watching a lot of reality interior design programming, in reality, does not result in actual interior design.

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“Reality” Television

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