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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reality Bites

February 11, 2004

This is war.

I’m tired of playing nice.

It’s time for action, fellow television viewers.

I’m calling for a TV revolution - an end to the constant barrage of reality shows eating up our precious time slots.

No more will I be content with programming that assumes the average TV viewer isn’t as smart as the people making television. No more will I quietly accept what television networks are offering.

My goal is to make some noise. A public outcry so loud that it rivals that of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction.

My plan of action? Simple. Turn the channel. That’s right. Don’t watch.

But don’t stop there. Write the networks and challenge executives to once again provide some quality programming. Why should we watch shows they aren’t willing to watch themselves? (Do you really think the network suits set their VCRs for Fear Factor?)

If I sound like a fanatic, you’re right. (I’ve been called worse.) But I won’t be quiet. Not until the trash heap currently littering the airwaves is expunged ... or until I get fired for my overzealous opinions.

If you’re wondering what’s pushed me over the edge, blame it on FOX and its latest offering to the reality genre. My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé is a big, fat, awful idea for TV viewers. It’s just one more ridiculous show to clutter the airwaves. Couple that show’s success with the fact that NBC just bumped its best comedy, Scrubs, from its highly coveted Thursday-night timeslot to make room for Donald Trump’s foray into reality programming, and I’m borderline certifiable.

It has to end. NOW!

I miss Tim the Tool Man, Jerry Seinfeld and Ally McBeal. I miss Felicity Porter and her tape recorder, Murphy Brown and her revolving secretaries, Thomas Magnum and his goofy eyebrow arch.

I miss scripted television.

Witty sitcoms and thought-provoking dramas are already an endangered species. And with fan favorites such as Frasier and Friends saying goodbye this year, the forecast is grim. Just visit any network Web site, and you’ll see casting calls for the next reality drama to replace these ratings winners.

It’s understandable why networks keep churning out these so-called reality shows; it’s cheap. They don’t have to pay writers or actors. Anyone willing to put themselves up for some humiliation and five minutes of fame can suddenly become a star.

What I don’t understand is why we’re still watching. I thought audiences would turn the channel in collective disgust at shows that reward contestants for eating vile concoctions of animal guts and live insects. I thought audiences would protest shows that mock marriage by having individuals choose partners through game show tactics. I thought audiences would snub shows that believe entertainment is achieved through the humiliation of others. But that hasn’t happened.

Reality programs tend to be popular. Astoundingly, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé just made the list of TiVo’s top 10 recorded programs.

So, if this is what they’re offering, I’m going elsewhere. I’m watching the WB, FX, We, TV Land - any network I can find that doesn’t tout reality shows.

I’m hoping change will come soon. That they’ll realize their mistake. I’m hoping this Remote Revolution and public insurgence will be the beginning of a programming transformation.

Meanwhile, I’ll be in my world, looking for well-written programs and surfing cable for syndicated shows. A place where Jack Tripper never dies, Joanie will always love Chachi, and Mayberry’s resident drunk, Otis Campbell, is as real as it gets.

Originally published 2/11/04 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


Victor said...

Here, here, Tube Talk Girl. I see that this is an old column, but it's still relevant. Way to take these shows to task.

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