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2021-08-27 18:51:12 (UTC)

Prompt 126: Reality Teevee

126. Reality TV dominated in the 2000s with shows like Survivor and The Hills. Do you think you'd ever want to be on a reality show? If so, which show would you pick and why? If not, why do you think reality shows are so popular?

Though I don't even own a television or have an account to Netflix, Hulu, and all that, I do see episodes for reality shows from time to time. Years ago, I had a girlfriend who was totally into "Toddlers & Tiaras," and I was entertained by an episode or two. She and I used to watch a number of those "paranormal investigation" shows, and they were fun for a while. Nowadays when I visit, she sometimes is going through a binge marathon of "90-day Fiance."

There are a lot of reasons I avoid television-watching and even reality shows in particular, but I won't go in depth on those here. Instead, I'll consider the "reality teevee mistique," and what brings people back to them time and again. Besides, I already complain enough in these journal entries and I don't feel like adding to that negativity at the moment.

Meanwhile... I sometimes wonder about the attraction to these kinds of programs. I remember when "MTV's The Real World" was maybe the first show of its kind. If memory serves, I think I reflected on this in a previous entry. But there was a period of time when I watched The Real World, catching various episodes over several seasons of the show. The season that featured some 18 year old kid from Texas trying to be a country singer was the last season I recall being interested in seeing that particular style of drama unfold. Since then, my curiosity has been piqued from time to time but in general I've just not been interested.

There was one program I remember seeing many, many years ago. It was only on my radar for a single episode, but it stuck with me. Did a little research to remind myself. The show was called 1900 House, and it was about a group of people of various ages living in a single-family home, but with access to technology that was available exclusively during the turn of the 20th century (for the year 1900, hence the name of the show). It was on PBS of all places, and apparently it was the "season finale" episode.

The scene I recall vividly was when a young girl busied herself making "fruit punch" from scratch. The process, I learned, included mashing fruit - in this case, strawberries - through a colander, mixing in a bunch of sugar, and then mixing that fruit mash with water. I remember seeing that and thinking to myself at the time, "It seems like they had to go through so much trouble just to have fun..." The rest of the episode doesn't stand out to me. I assume it was a bunch of brief reflections on their experience of living that archaic way of life for a year. I think the end of the episode was a final rolling of the credits, like: "Bob Jones went back to his life as a structural engineer." "Mary Sue Jenkins returned to her family in Spokane, Washington, where she teaches third grade." But it was the punch recipe that stood out to me the most.

Now that I think on it, I did see a more contemporary show more recently. When I worked at the day program for adults with special needs, I shared with them a few episodes of "Survivor Man" or something like that (it was definitely -not- "Survivor," for the record). They were about one guy who was dropped off in the wilderness, and then had to make his way on his own to some pre-defined pickup location at the fringe of the wild area. A couple episodes were focused on the Arizona desert country, the deep woods of middle Canada or the Pacific Northwest, and places like that.

There's a bit of "teevee magic" involved with all those types of shows. Film editing itself is nearly a magical process, and post-processing is a remarkable feature to those ignorant of film editing techniques. Even with the basic film-editing software I have, it's possible to cut together a decent, five-minute "highlight reel" out of some of the most boring footage. So even a weird concept like 90-day Fiance can seem exciting and engaging when it's cut together creatively. Hell, I remember when a band I was in was in a pilot episode for one of those "America's Got Talent" spin-offs in the mid-2000s. What an experience that was...! In my opinion, the process of editing teams combing through dozens of hours of footage in order to cobble together a single hour's episode of that show was nothing short of a miracle.

Were I to appear in one of those types of shows (again?) for the long-term, I'd prefer it be on a show where I would have a chance to learn a skill or two. For example, personally I would -love- to be able to dedicate a year in learning and acquiring a skilled trade (plumbing has always fascinated me, for whatever reason). Or starting a home-based business from scratch.

Maybe that's why that one episode of 1900 House sticks out to me so much. To live in that house for an entire year they had to drop essentially their daily routines and all the modern conveniences they took for granted, and pick up an entirely new set to make it through daily life. The end result was educational (at least to a certain degree) and entertaining for the audience.

As a participant however, it wouldn't be just an entertaining show. For me, the reality show would be my reality: I would have to do the thing, I would have to fail at doing the thing over and over again, I would have to struggle... Until I finally improved and became better at the thing. I would be able to observe my first foray into whatever it was, see where I started, and then what level of accomplishment I'd attained at the finale episode. Were it a full year of my life and my learning boiled down into a single season (or, even a single two-hour documentary or whatever) I'd be able to always look back on it because that part of my life had been documented and recorded - and edited - to display the narrative and the chronology.

I think back on the past year of my day job performance and all the struggles I'd endured to help keep our organization afloat, and I think I feel the same as I would were I in a reality show. The thing I can look back on is the content of the online classroom I developed from scratch, the email log, the online activities, the recorded lectures... Imagine an editor sifting through the crap to come up with a decent amount of footage, with the end goal of coming up with something educational and entertaining... I think that would be possible. I am absolutely certain I'd be grateful for the experience.

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