Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Last week, when I explained my reduced posting schedule so that I can enjoy other things in my life, such as watching Survivor, old pal Stacy suggested I share my thoughts on this season's show.
I remember when Survivor first came on the scene. I honestly thought it would be a fad - not just Survivor, but the entire "Reality TV" scene. Boy was I wrong. It has been on the air for almost 11 years now. The original Reality TV show, The Real World - on MTV - began almost 17 years ago. Those original seasons seem fairly quaint now. The producers, participants and viewers hadn't yet figured out that there was a golden "formula." The rich person, the lovable naive one, the hard knocks fighter, the brainiac, the goofball, and of course, the minority/gay person to see how everyone else will react to them. It isn't all that different from high school cliques when you think about it.
Reality TV started as basically a sociology experiment. Make a documentary more interesting by manipulating the environment and activities to ensure that action worth watching happens. Put people under stress, in contact with people outside of their comfort zone, from places they've never been, from classes they've never experienced, with age differences they would usually avoid - and see how they get along, or don't. Convince them to do this by holding a carrot of prize money, scholarships or job opportunities in front of them.
With the success of the early Reality TV shows, more and more were created. Many were flops. Several others found their own footing in the niche and survived in mainstream. But what has also happened, is that Reality TV created a sub-segment of Me TV. Shows filled with people who just want to be on TV. They want to make a scene and be remembered - even if they will be ashamed of their actions when and if they grow up. And there are plenty of people willing to watch these shows. Like not being able to take your eyes off of the car wreck.
I tend to enjoy the Reality TV shows that are competitions or contests - like behind the scenes game shows. Survivor, The Amazing Race. I also like The Apprentice, even though it is generally just a bunch of annoying people - I still like to judge who should or shouldn't be fired. The Biggest Loser makes me worry for the contestants. I'm not sure that these people are given the tools to live a healthy life after they get the weight off. Some of them seem to be teetering to the opposite extreme of eating disorders, obsessed with ounces of weight.
Dancing With The Stars or American Idol are more like talent shows to me - reminders of Star Search. They end up more as popularity contests than judgments of the best talent for the right reasons.
I do have to admit though, I have my guilty pleasures on E! - I watch Real Housewives of Orange County. I have been watching these nut jobs from Season 1 and feel like I know them. I tried watching one of the spin-offs but it felt like I was cheating on the real thing. Even Andy likes the show. I suppose it makes us feel better to know we are better off than the rich and reality famous.
As for Survivor, it is tops for me. It has the mental aspect. Coming up with a plan, thinking multiple steps ahead like a chess game. It also has physical challenges. Strength and determination along with that inner reserve of pure will that we are capable of when we want something badly enough. And finally, it has the social aspect. In order to win, you have to have treated people well enough to give you the grand prize even though you had a hand in voting each of them out before you. Lots of contestants make it to the end on strategy and strength, but they lose because they forget that in the end, a big key to success in our society, and Survivor, is how you make people feel about you and themselves.
This season's cast of contestants hasn't been all that inspiring, or smart. Too much of Me TV wannabes infiltrating a show better off without them. But I do have my favorite for the end. This dude named Judd - aka Fabio. He is strong. He is funny. He is sweet. And he finally seems to be coming up with a strategy. He hasn't pissed off anyone directly. So I'll be rooting for him on Sunday in the finale. Or Monday. The Patriots are playing Sunday night. I will have to DVR my Reality TV for reality.