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Charles W. Dowdy


TV reality show exegesis
by Charles W. Dowdy



Is it just me or has this reality television craze gotten kind of carried away?

Last night I watched some guy eat a plate of squirming bugs so he could be declared “The winner!” Who are these people and, more importantly, what do they eat at home?

I lump all these reality shows into one category called the “Do Something Stupid and Humiliating on National Television Game/Show.”

It would be one thing if the participants were demeaning themselves for something worthwhile. Hey, Survivor paid a million bucks, but now there are so many knock-offs the reward for such dubious behavior has dropped considerably.

“That’s right, Frank, for diving through hoops of fire buck naked while you’re soaked in gasoline, riding on the underside of a galloping horse through a lava field, and then ingesting a plate full of unsalted maggot larvae, we’re going to award you the ‘Do Something Stupid on Television Homegame.’ Now you and your family can enjoy countless nights full of stupid and humiliating behavior in the comfort of your own home.”

What’s even worse is how obvious the networks stack these things. Are we watching normal people put into normal situations? Of course not. So why is it called reality programming? There’s nothing real about it.

Real would be a show where they put five normal people in a house. (“Honey, you’ve got to come see this! The batteries are out on the remote control, and I think Frank is going to get out of his Barca-Lounger to change the channel. This will be the first time he’s moved since he got up to go to the bathroom, and that was hours ago.”)

Normal people would do the one thing they simply could not do on reality television: they would make concessions to each other. It’s just like soap operas and communication. If those daytime soap folks would just talk back and forth for three minutes instead of sharing lustful stares then so many of their problems could be solved without illegitimate children and paternity tests and murders and so many commercial breaks.

MTV is the best when it comes to picking contestants. They take a little insecurity, a pinch of schizophrenia, add huge heapings of ego, and top it off with some light homicidal rage. Then they preheat the oven to six billion degrees and cook.

You’ll find yourself stopping on a channel featuring a girl crying as if she just witnessed the Hindenberg crash into an elementary school. Then you’ll hear her sob, “I can’t believe I’ve got to share a room with Brin.”

It doesn’t say much for the current generation when these people get to stay in a great city, in a great house full of beautiful people with no apparent jobs or responsibilities. (“Y’all, like, we have got to have a house meeting. It was Brin’s turn to clean up the kitchen and she didn’t do it again.”)

Other generations get World Wars, depressions, famines and arms races. We have bug eating and roommate crises.

My favorite situation is when they put celebrities on these reality shows and everyone has to watch because we know the average Joe is dumb enough to humiliate himself but we simply can not believe “SHE” would eat a Buffalo Chip Pizza.

I mean, “SHE” is almost a big B list star. She won that People’s Second Choice Award for that movie where she was repeatedly ravished by those really short pirates. I think it was called “The Pygmies of Penzance.” Her acting was . . . was . . . very revealing. She exposed her . . . true spirit in that role. And now even someone as successful and worshipped as SHE can feel the call of mindless and silly competition.

I guess my main concern is figuring out where it ends.

Right now these contestants sign away their rights and identity. They forget pride and throw away any self-esteem they’ve picked up on the way. Is it really that far into the future before they sign away their lives?

Think about it. Instead of getting kicked off the show they’re beheaded right before the ending credits. Then the remaining contestants step over the head as they trek back to their house or jungle or whatever.

And if they do take it this far, I guess the first thing I’d want to know would be this: Is Brin gonna carry her fair share of the weight and clean that mess up?

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Charles Dowdy lives in south Mississippi with his beautiful wife, four kids, and a menagerie of furry things. He’s in the radio business, but also writes a weekly column for several newspapers. He loves to hear from editors. Write him at cwdowdyjr@yahoo.com -- especially if you’re an editor.

Want to read more of Dowdy’s stories? Check out the USADS HUMOR SECTION for a long list of hilarious articles. Or try these:

Whatcha Doin’?
Pregnancy Books
Double Trouble: cross-eyed twins

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