I don’t watch much reality TV, as in the “American Idol” or “Survivor” type of program. I still think “Survivor” is one of the stupidest shows American television has ever produced. Like “The Simpsons,” I have absolutely no idea why it’s so popular. I generally prefer real reality TV, such as “The First 48” or “A Haunting.” I love the former because it shows the good side of police work; when our tax dollars pay off, and law enforcement catches real criminals instead of those with expired inspection stickers. But, I enjoy the latter series because I know now my strange visions aren’t the result of brain cells dying off after a lifetime of rum consumption.
Occasionally, though, I find myself stepping into the ‘Dark Side,’ which for me, is that part of our universe where intelligentsia has the same prevalence as a unicorn. That’s when I catch a glimpse of such gems as “Jersey Shore,” “Mob Wives,” or “Basketball Wives.” Watching these programs makes me feel like a Nobel laureate in economics, but it also makes me sad. American television has come to this? It’s been like that for a while.
I remember when MTV came out with their “Real World” series in 1992. Of course, I can remember when the ‘M’ in MTV still meant music and not morons. But, that show was deemed ‘reality’ and became an instant pop culture phenomenon. It didn’t seem to matter that the network just cobbled together a batch of 20-somethings with no real aim in life and threw them into a faux household to see how quickly they didn’t get along. If I wanted to see that, I’d just go to work. I didn’t watch that show much either. But, it was always for the same reason: my mind was tired and I needed something that – while entertaining – still didn’t require much energy.
A few years ago I tolerated one entire episode of “Jersey Shore,” just to see what all the hype was about; the same way I did with “Survivor” in the fall of 2000. I came away with the same question: why? Why is this show so popular? Is it because most people are like me in that they need something just to make them laugh? I hope so because, if people watch this show out of envy, I’m more eager to see that colony built on Mars than ever before. After that one stint of “Jersey Shore,” I still didn’t know what the hell was going on. Aside from the language barrier (I don’t speak Jersey trash), I only knew these people were pissed off at one another for some minuscule reason and had to get drunk to help them cope – which only made them madder and louder.
On a recent episode of “Mob Wives,” the title characters gathered for a Botox party. Tupperware, I can understand. But, Botox? You know people have too much time and money on their hands when they get together to stick needles into one another while holding glasses of champagne. As the pack of heifers assembled, I felt they looked like rejects from the ‘Miss (Gay) America’ pageant. I thought at first, is this really “Mob Wives,” or ‘Home for Retired Porn Queens’? As usual – as in “Survivor” and “Jersey Shore” – one of the fools in the crowd got pissed off at someone else, and soon everyone was arguing. And, as usual, they were imbibing in alcohol.
I’m certain “Jersey Shore” and “Mob Wives” make most Italian-Americans think, ‘Forty years after “The Godfather” and we’re still dealing with this crap?!’ I have the same reaction when I see Geraldo Rivera discussing immigration reform as if it’s the only thing Hispanics have to worry about. I’m just waiting for VH1 to come out with something like, ‘Latinos of East Dallas’ where the cast muddles through Tex-Mex linguistics while arguing if they should shop at Wal-Mart or splurge and head to Target.
Black women must feel the same about “Basketball Wives.” In one episode, the cluster of perfectly-coiffed mavens met at a chic lounge to discuss – something. I have no idea what because – as expected – they started screaming at one another. And then, cocktail glasses and acrylic nails went airborne. And then, big burly male security guards who surely got a good laugh (and maybe a quick orgasm) out of the feline fiasco swept in to scoop up the girls and dump their scrawny asses onto the street outside. Their designer attire and spike heels with 6-figure price tags prove what my grandfather used to say: you can dress a donkey up as a thoroughbred horse, but it’s still a jackass.
If you’ll notice, these shows all have at least two things in common: shouting and alcohol. Bad attitudes and prescription drugs also figure prominently into the mix, but screaming and booze are the central elements. I guess these shows wouldn’t be popular if their subject matters weren’t intoxicated and wrapped up in a perpetual state of anger. Maybe Americans like it so much because such antics mirror their own lives. Hm…maybe that’s why I kind of like them, too.
Damnit! Why don’t I realize these things before I starting writing? Oh, well. Time to sit down with a glass of wine and a “National Geographic.” Hey! At least I read!