by Dan Smith
If you and I are of a like mind, you may be fed up with the so-called reality programming that permeates television these days.
With most of us receiving more than 100 channels, we can see at least 50 of these fake TV shows at any hour. The remainder are infomercials, old sitcom reruns and a sprinkling of 24-hour news programs - so much for the joys of cable or satellite television.
I will admit that I do tune in to a few reality shows, but I do try to avoid those that obviously feed lines to non-actors.
Surely, the producers must know that amateur actors can't come close to believability when reading from a script. At the very least most of the reality programs are storyboarded. That is to say they are given an outline from which to draw their "spontaneous" moments.
Some of the worst seem to be those awful tow truck series. The "stars" of those shows probably couldn't read a bedtime story to a child, much less act out a script. By the way, just how many tow truck shows do we need?
Hollywood has always taken the easy way out and as soon as one of these reality things draws a bit of an audience, a half dozen more just like it pops up. How many "Real Housewives of-" programs are there now? Can the "Real Housewives of Bunnell" be far off?
Pawnshop shows are all the rage right now, but TV's version of pawn is more like Antiques Roadshow. They are always dealing for something valuable. If it was a true reality show, it would feature people so down on their luck that they are willing to hock their last item of value so they might eat.
Of course, that wouldn't draw ratings and make no mistake that is what this is all about - ratings and profit.
Most reality programs costs very little to make, with no real actors to pay. Some of the stars of these shows look as though they would work for a gift certificate to Subway. There is also no need for talented directors.
How ...this?" you may ask. I can't say but I remember a day back in the '80s when my wife Lana and I were watching the news in Chicago. Bill Kurtis was the anchor and he was doing an editorial on something he called "reality TV." Neither of us had ever heard the term. He said that by the year 2000, 80 percent of programming would be reality-based. Lana and I got a good laugh from that prediction. Later when I looked back at that moment I realized that right then Cops, The People's Court and America's Most Wanted were some of our favorites.
We never knew that Judge Wapner was the reality that Kurtis was speaking of. Actuality, I would wager that when Bill Kurtis did that piece, he had no idea that his own career would take him in that direction. These days he can be found narrating several of the countless crime shows that populate the airwaves.
The real question is, when will it all end? The short answer is that it won't. The TV networks are mostly devoid of the original ideas that come from good writing and directing. Quality people are not going to sign on to direct and storyboard for a show about people who make fish tanks or a bunch of obnoxious young people who are forced to live together.
Unless we stage a revolt, we will be forever stuck with cameras following around the wives of hip-hop stars, athletes, mobsters, the Kardashians, Gene Simmons or Paris Hilton. No doubt the profit margin for those gems is through the roof, so we are bound to get more of the same. As I am writing this, I am hearing that Jessica Simpson will soon be back. Maybe she will reprise her bit about chicken or tuna. So far that's about as good as reality TV has had to offer.