Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't Make Fun of Reality TV


Last night I got home late, to a full TiVo. While checking my email and getting ready for bed, I had time to watch one of the shows recorded over the last few days. Did I watch Modern Family, a new comedy getting lots of critical buzz? Did I watch the new Mercy, which is actually a pretty good new hospital drama (Dawson is on now, and he's surprisingly hilarious!)? Did I watch last week's Community, which everyone tells me was really funny? No. I watched last night's American Idol, and I do not regret my choice. I adore a lot of great scripted TV shows, but I love a lot of reality TV shows too, so please don't try to tell me that all reality TV sucks.

We here at Don't Do That are of the firm belief that TV should be fun. Yes, I'm sure your totally depressing show is gritty and fascinating and educational and blah blah, but is it enjoyable? Do you smile? Do you laugh? No? Well, then, it's not for me. Do you know what is fun and makes me laugh? Lots of reality TV, that's what. Any genre that gives me all of the laughs of the Four Four recaps of America's Next Top Model (the show title is a lie, but who cares?), this list of fantastic reality show judges by the Fug Girls, "My ox is broken!", Santino's imitation of Tim Gunn and Andrae going to Red Lobster (and really, any of Santino's Tim Gunn impersonations), multiple "I'm not here to make friends" montages, and the many amazing faces of Nina Garcia is a genre that I'm going to love. And if those things don't make you laugh, I'm so sorry that you have no joy in your life.

Even more, reality TV can be fascinating and educational. Did you see Hung break down those chickens on Top Chef? Or that gorgeous dress made out of sandpaper on last week's Project Runway? Or make vacation plans to some gorgeous looking country that you knew nothing about after seeing it on The Amazing Race? Because we all did.

Another great benefit of reality TV is that they're fun to talk about, and many of them are great for a range of ages and interests. My boss and I bond over reality TV all the time -- she watches way more than I do, and can't wait to discuss the most recent episode of Dancing with the Stars with me in the mornings. One reason that I started watching American Idol again, after swearing off the show for a few years, is that I can have in depth discussions about it with both my nine year old cousin (who makes himself a little chart every night while watching Idol to see how people did and who he wants to vote for, it's kind of adorable), and my 79 year old grandmother. And it's always delightful when you know someone who knows someone who is on a show; I was very excited when I discovered that a girl who was the flower girl in a wedding that I was in in 2000 made it to Hollywood week on this year's Idol, and told everyone I knew (she didn't make it to the top 24, sadly).

But but but, reality TV created Tila Tequila! Yeah sure, there are lots and lots of super trashy reality shows. But you know what? There are a lot of really bad scripted shows too. According to Jim was on the air for way too many seasons, and The Ghost Whisperer and Two and a Half Men are both still on, along with many other really bad shows with awful actors. And reality TV also brought us Tim Gunn and Phil Keoghan, so I'll happily take the bad with the good.

So the next time that you're about to roll your eyes when two of your friends start discussing the latest episode of Big Brother in depth, just stop, think about how the "motherf**ing walk off!" is one of the best things that has ever come to television, and don't do it.

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