NBC’s half-hour comedy My Name is Earl was canceled last week, pretty much signaling the end of civilization as we know it (although that may be an understatement).
Whether or not you were a fan of Earl, one thing is undeniable: TV shows that require actual actors, scripts and forethought are being replaced with reality programming faster than you can grab a video camera and film somebody getting whacked in the crotch.
Reality TV is taking over. And why shouldn’t it? Who wants to watch an attractive classically-trained actor or actress when one could watch some 300-pound Midwestern high school dropout in rumpled stretch pants bellyaching that she’s not giving up on her dream to become a professional singer no matter what Simon, Randy and Paula say! (You know what else she’s apparently not giving up on? Hamburgers and ice cream.)
I can’t go to the supermarket without picking up a People magazine filled with paparazzi pics of that mother from Jon & Kate Plus 8. And as a rule, I don’t want to see anything in a tankini that’s given birth more times than my neighbor’s basset hound.
I can’t open my front door or look at a newspaper without getting blasted in the face with reality. And maybe you haven’t noticed, but between the economy, the Middle East and the environment, lately reality bites.
I’ll admit I might be a teensy bit bitter because my wife is addicted to reality television, which in itself would probably make a great reality show. Our TV’s digital video recorder is jammed packed with all sorts of reality crap I wouldn’t be caught dead watching even if it was me on the other side of the boardroom table from Donald Trump or Tyra Banks.
Put it in primetime, give it a peppy soundtrack, film it with a herky jerky camera and my wife will watch it — as long it has no semblance of a plot or stars anyone with even a shred of acting experience, unless it’s a C-list celebrity like Andy Dick getting Tasered on an episode of Cops.
You name it, my wife probably already has a TiVo “season pass” for it: The Real Housewives of Orange County, Bridezillas, American Idol, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Project Runway, The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser, Little People Big World, So You Think You Can Dance. (I could go on, but I’m already going to be in enough trouble after my wife finds out I told you all this.)
My wife’s ultimate idea for a reality show would be a group of blind/deaf/conjoined/adopted slightly retarded octuplet babies who are on a Japanese game show to see who can lose the most weight while trying to win a singing/dancing/stand-up comedy contest, traveling the world as part of an international scavenger hunt and being cared for by a British nanny who periodically asks everyone to guess what’s inside a series of steel numbered briefcases, then allows the audience to vote one of the contestants off of the show. (Since the babies are conjoined, it could be a little harder to vote one baby off each week, but that raises the possibility of surgery, which my wife is also a big fan of watching.) Oh, and all of the babies and the nanny are addicted to heroin, which will require an intervention followed by a stint in celebrity rehab with Flavor Flav.
The whole point of watching TV is to escape the real world (which, coincidentally, is another reality show my wife watches). I’ve spent my entire life trying to avoid the freaks and geeks who become reality “stars.” It’s the whole reason I don’t go to Renaissance Faires, swap meets or ride public buses.
So why would I willingly invite another stranger’s problems into my living room by watching reality TV?
“Because it’s entertaining,” says my wife.
I’ll tell you what’s entertaining: Boobs, car chases and explosions, in that order. And a show like My Name is Earl usually offered me two out of the three.
Maybe I’ll start buying my favorite canceled shows on DVD.
Or maybe I need to construct my own more entertaining reality. With boobs, car chases and explosions, in that order.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org