My buddy is moving, and I'm babysitting his 32" hi-def TV for him until he leaves town. It's low-def to me, as I'm not paying extra just to have a wider picture for a month. But, thanks to the extra TV in our house, the "old" TV is currently living in the master bedroom, which means I can lay in bed and watch crap TV--something we usually don't do. I still have this odd habit when channel surfing of slowing down at MTV or VH-1, in the off chance they might have actual music videos. (Ah, the good old days.) Some days they will have a top-100 songs of the 80s or such, which makes it worthwhile. But there are some incredibly stupid "reality" TV shows out there. It's hard to review the genre since I never watch for more than a minute or two... I'm embarassed to admit having paused for that long, but it's like a train wreck--hard to avert your eyes sometimes.
Last night, I'm surfing and saw a guy I could have sworn was 1976 Olympic decathalon gold medalist Bruce Jenner. Turns out (I went to google and found this out) that he has married some fashion heiress, and their blended family (The Kardashians) have a reality show now. Apparently the camera just follows them around all the time and they just do whatever mega-rich celebrities do, and this is supposedly entertaining enough to justify the show. And they are not alone in that--there are similar shows with Hulk Hogan's family and the guy who played Peter Brady. Sorry--never seen an episode. That entire concept may be the second-dumbest thing I've ever heard.
The winner, however, is the dating reality shows. These have actually been around for a few years--during our cross-country trip in 2005, we got into watching a series on Tuesdays (in a different state every Tuesday) called Average Joe. It's been a while, but as I recall, it was a bunch of regular guys competing for the affections of one or more really pretty girls, but they were also competing with a bunch of pretty-boy male model hunk-types. I don't remember how it came out, but we got sucked in for a while. Now there is the same thing with Beauty and the Geek, there's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and, best (or worst) of all, there are some amazingly low-class shows where a house-full of contestants compete to be the love interest of an otherwise pretty unattractive celebrity. I think the first of these was Flavor of Love, in which a bunch of ghetto girls compete for the right to date Flavor Flav, the rapper from Public Enemy. To say I don't get it is understatement of the year. Not only is Flav profoundly unattractive, the "ladies" (and I use the term VERY loosely) have almost no redeeming features. This show spun off I Love New York, in which one of the girls who (sadly) lost out on the Flav sweepstakes got her own show, where a bunch of boyz from the hood then competed for her. And her only claim to fame was having been a loser on somebody else's show! Apparently, this genre was a hit. So they made a version for aging metal-heads in which a bunch of tattooed amateur pole-dancers competed for a relationship with Brett Michaels, the 40-something lead singer of 80's hair band Poison. And now there is one in which teams of straight men and lesbians compete to be the main squeeze of a bisexual celebrity named Tia Tequila. For the life of me, I have no idea what she is famous for, besides being famous, I guess.
Again, the disclaimer--I've never watched even a full episode of any of these shows, so maybe they have some redeeming features of which I'm unaware. But the whole concept seems just odd to me. On The Biggest Loser, you might win $250,000 for the grand prize, or even $100,000 as a consolation prize. And if you don't win anything, your time on the fat farm is supposed to be beneficial--you drop 80 or 100 lbs and live a longer and happier life. But on these stupid dating shows, all you "win" is the right to be the main squeeze of a celebrity for the few weeks until the next season starts (Flavor of Love is in its 3rd or 4th season, so I guess none of those relationships from the first couple of seasons worked out. Sad, isn't it?). In return, you go off to live in this media fishbowl and debase yourself in public for from one to thirteen weeks. During this time, what about your job? Who pays your rent?
I'm pretty sure it's like professional wrestling--all fake (I hope that didn't spoil it for any rasslin' fans). And I know that people my age have pointed to signs that the culture is going to heck in a hand-basket for generations. But the fact that somewhere out there are people who actually tune in to Flavor of Love on purpose--who pull for their favorite "lady" and think it's real, maybe even romantic... well, that freaks me out. And the fact that Bruce Jenner could go from a world and Olympic record in the decathalon and the front of a Wheaties box to whetever he's doing now, that's doubly sad.