I have long considered the television in my home to be something of a decoration, or something which is activated every now and then so that visiting friends can compete with each other over who can find the funniest Youtube clip. After exhausting many repetitions of the talking boat and various people faceplanting into the handlebars of their own bikes, sometimes the actual antenna on the TV is activated and we absorb what it is that television is serving.
Which seems to be “Reality TV”… Constant, unending Reality TV.
“Oh, a Reality TV rant” I hear the audience of this article collectively groan, “how original” they snipe, before returning to their smartphones to retweet some popular comedian’s observation and basking in the reflected glory of someone else’s wit.
Is it the format that annoys me? I don’t believe so. Is it the cynical way that Reality TV exploits its willing stars, meticulously editing footage in order to tell a narrative written by producers? That’s a part of it, but not entirely.
The fake drama of reality TV
Not too long ago, I watched a brief section of Outback Truckers. It was a harrowing episode in where some guys drove their trucks across some very brown looking land before getting their thousand tonne behemoth stuck in it. After much dramatic music, the rig was yanked out of the mud and our intrepid highway journeyman continued on. But… BUT… according to the voice over, there was “one more obstacle”
You are trucking kidding me… Oh my! I thought. What could be worse than getting stuck in the ground for a bit, or the need to turn on the windscreen wipers? As it turned out, it turns out, it was a corner. Now, I understand Road Trains are difficult beasts to master, but I wouldn’t have thought a slight bend in a stretch of road would be that difficult to overcome. In fact, I’m pretty sure that to get a license, obstacles such as these would be part of the learning curriculum. As it turns out, the corner wasn’t an issue and was defeated with ease.
The trucker unloaded his carriage of cows, with the beasts clambering off the truck to the sound of hooves and dramatic music. It was here where the cameraman appeared to have a seizure as the view of the “action” shook around with the magnitude of a violent earthquake. The cows were herded into the yard, and with shakey cam in full effect, the driver or farmer (I wasn’t paying that much attention – when you’ve seen one flannelette shirt, you’ve seen them all) and put the latch on the gate.
It was here where the cameraman appeared to have a seizure as the view of the “action” shook around with the magnitude of a violent earthquake.
He put the latch on the gate. That sounds like a relatively benign task, right? You get the latch and you lock it onto the gate. Simple. However, with the “shakey cam” effect in full swing, with dramatic music and drums thrumming in the background, this guy wasn’t just latching a gate. No he was battling the gate, an opponent rivalled only by a fusion of Mike Tyson and Satan.
So, the issue here is that this “Reality Show” feels completely fabricated. There is no real drama in these shows, it is all completely fabricated and stretched out to fill an hour of airtime using drums and fancy camerawork.
Cooking shows on TV
Next there are the cooking shows which Ed has written about in the past.
I’ll precede what I say next by saying I understand that these cooking shows in particular are a competition between people. But when a perfect toothed-bronzed statue of a guy, or an impossibly dolled up urchin unironically tell some unseen off-camera entity that “It’s game on”, my eye twitches for a brief moment, which is a leading indicator that my face is about to fold in on itself in a violent cringe.
It’s “Game On”? Really? Do you really think that this kind of psychological warfare has any kind of effect on your dastardly opponents when they’re located at a different oven or bench? Is your gamesmanship really that effective when you’re not actually competing in a direct way, like say, some kind of contact sport?
Firstly, unless you’re facing each other, brandishing ladles, wearing saucepans as helmets, and gnashing your teeth as you prepare to club each other to death, the game is certainly “Not On”. Secondly, you’re mixing food together and maybe applying heat to stuff. Get over yourself. Thirdly, has anyone used the phrase “Game On” in polite company without being exiled to the car?
These exemplary home-bound chefs are hardly what we expect in the real world. I have a vision in my head of my future children parked in front of the TV as I cook dinner, staring at the screen, absorbing the latest cuisine served up before an impossibly accented European, hearing him exhale an enamoured “magnifique!”
In this vision, my children then turn to me, their massive eyes open so wide with anticipation that they threaten to spring out and dangle comically in front of them like a grotesque necktie.
“What’s for dinner?” They’ll ask, and I’ll stare at the dry schnitzels in the frying pan, turning forlornly to the frozen vegetables in the steamer before sighing with the resignation of a condemned man.
I’ll then turn to the innocent faces of my children who think it’s normal to be exploring the boundaries of the flavour of abalone partnered with something called “emulsion” (or something?!), and I’ll remember that their existence is the sole reason for continuing my own, instead of climbing despairingly inside the oven myself.