From the comfort of your own home you can watch people you don’t know doing things you wouldn’t approve of as they waste time you don’t have. But we all tune in, don‘t we? We just have to know who’s getting the recording contract, who gets the girl or who gets the boot. We might even tune in for more noble reasons. For instance, to see who loses the most weight or stops smoking.
One recent program had contestants rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. The winner was to be honored by being able to redo a condo to live in or produce a one time television program. The previous prize was a one year employment opportunity with the founder the program. That’s like going from a sports car to a mid priced minivan. Given enough time, I’m thinking eventually that the winner will get the privilege of bringing a bagel to the boss before he fires them, sort of the Yugo of reality TV.
This phenomenon has grown so large that there’s even a new network that is 24 hours a day reality television. You can watch people as they mull a decision over vinyl wall coverings or faux stone. Then there is the cooking show featuring truck drivers and how they cook on the road using nothing but their engine and exhaust pipe. My personal favorite may be “Cake Collapse” where a contestant is hired to barge into an actual cooking show at just the right moment to see if they can cause the demise of a culinary masterpiece. Then there’s “Fossil Fuel Express” in which contestants are urged to go through the 25 point engine check at an express lube place and learn to identify oils by sight, smell and taste. The one that is beyond genius is “Reality Check” the show where contestants are forced to watch the channel for 120 days straight, no phone calls to the outside world and only TV dinners are served. Those who use the remote are forced to participate in at least two other reality TV shows.
Perhaps they’ll be showing a re-run of a show I saw the other night. The premise is that the audience gets to see vocal artists from the 1980’s and early 90’s. They get to sing one of their signature songs and then they perform their own treatment of a current song. Oh, but when your favorite artist take the stage you are left to wonder who these people really are - they don’t have the hair we remember (not a bad thing really) and their bodies are proving that gravity is a law. Their voices may not have the same polish we remember and their wardrobe really should consist of sweats (the oversized ones).
I know I’m not in charge but there is one reality TV show I’d love to see made. That would be “America’s Greatest Storytellers”. You may think I’m kidding here, but I’d love to see a show where masses of senior citizens across America had the opportunity to share some of their best memories. I know my grandpa always had some great ones.
I spent some time in a nursing home recently and I heard some doozies. I suppose it didn’t hurt that I brought candy for Bingo night, but I was treated to some great yarns. Free souls encased in struggling bodies let their age fade away at precious moments recalled. Eyes took on a far away gaze and clouded up at the most delightful places. They broke from their stories for only a moment to see if I was really listening. If so, I was rewarded with tales that may have been little heard in decades. Locations and faces recalled and brought to life in one precious moment after another. Wars long forgotten were brought back to life and loves long buried were resuscitated in all their precious tenderness and bittersweet pain. The smiles were genuine and tears recalled from the past found an encore in the present and I came to understand I was in the presence of greatness.
Maybe my idea of a storytellers television show will never fly. Most media producers and advertisers struggle to keep those thirty and younger happy, so if you fall outside that narrowly defined age group it is probable that programs that you may have liked will leave the line-up simply because it didn’t really connect with people in their target audience. It’s a shame really; I thought the idea was a good one.
Here’s an idea! Head on over to a local nursing home and spend an hour watching and listening. It’ll be one of the best reality programs you’ll see. You might even want to come back to see how it turns out. The best part is two people will leave feeling as though their time was well spent.