With so many quality police shows, dramas, premium channel series, and sports to watch on TV, one of my guilty pleasures of television watching these days is a couple of reality TV shows where I just get to disengage my thinking brain and get to become more of a sarcastic, judging, critical SOB than I already am.
I’m not talking about the dancing, cooking, singing or fashion-design contests that take actual talent or even the materialistic-focused, obnoxious real housewife or Jersey Shore bickering-and-boozing spectacles. My have-you-no-shame broadcasts are The Maury Povich Show and ABC’s The Bachelor.
Face it; there are times when your brain just wants to turn off and just watch someone totally lose all inhibition and go crazy on television for the amusement and shock factor along with the simple fact that you could never see yourself doing that – bringing all your personal dirt and downfalls out for the public to see.
Why watch? For me I think it’s somewhere between cruelty and voyeurism where I gain an inner feeling of superiority as I see how low people can actually make their lives appear all in the name of their 15 minutes of fame with personas that fall below a threshold of respectability.
Maury Povich, which debuted in 1991 and is for some reason one of daytime TV’s longest-running talk shows, has all but forsaken any other type of content in favor of promoting ghetto gems and white trash with a DNA test and who is and isn’t the baby’s daddy.
Yes, it seems the show promotes itself with ethnic and cultural stereotypes and you have to remind yourself that all black women don’t have names that end with “isha” or “equia,” live in inner-city public housing, are fat, speak Ebonics, got pregnant at age 14, and needs a paternity test to determine if some guy who has just as much gold around his neck that he does on his front teeth is the father.
Maury doesn’t discriminate with race either and seems to typecast his white guests straight from a double-wide.
It still amazes me that William Robert will jump up and down with joy hugging and kissing his slut-shamed wife because “all is now well and forgiven” because he’s the father and not his brother/cousin/best-friend/etc. that she slept with during the time she got knocked up – that must make for some great family gathering conversations.
And yo, Maury: the long sleeves and turtle necks on the guests don’t fool anyone either. We all know those bodies are more marked up than a South Central LA overpass.
Heck, even the commercials for getting out of debt, lawsuits for injuries, and going back to school — strategically placed in the afternoon hours for all the slackers — gives me a rise.
Enough of Maury, on to primetime and The Bachelor.
About 13 years ago The Bachelor premiered with the premise of 25 women competing for a prize. Nothing new there; only “the prize” here just so happens to be a future husband.
I know it’s just dreadful to think about it, having your own harem of women, stashed away in some mansion, desperately competing for the attention of one man – go ahead, punish me.
The show has several dynamics going on as the psychology of the damsels plays out around the social roles, power relations, social strategy and sexuality of the show as they all vie for the attention of one man who appears to be more than willing to share the love.
And let’s not forget the “Twinkies” that ABC has chosen to be well strewn within the hopeful ladies of every season.
To be clear, “Twinkies” are that wild fantasy – a once in a while treat – that provide no nutritional value, all the time knowing they would kill you if you had a steady diet of them.
In other words, a woman who can take you to the edge of the earth physically, but after a break up or spat, slashes the tires on your car, burns your clothes, and tries to get you fired from your job; then calls you the next day telling you how much in love with you she is and wants to reconcile.
This show also typifies catty or weak female stereotypes as the women argue, cry, scream, yell, gossip with the standard “crocodile tears,” or “the little girl who cried wolf.”
Want a great drinking game? Take a sip when a voice-over by host Chris Harrison promises “the claws will come out” or “hearts will be broken” or the ever reliable “the most dramatic rose ceremony ever.” Take another sip when one of the dollies in contention is off bawling in some exotic area.
You’ll be hungover every Tuesday morning.
In the end, the bachelor has “rose ceremonies” where these women are either kept or given the boot and he eventually finds the love of his life to marry.
All-in-all, who wouldn’t fall in love with cost-free exorbitant dates in far-away places with top name musical bands performing for just the two of you with a mega-carat diamond financed by Neil Lane?
But each Monday night (when there’s no council meeting or at least an early one), there I am, remote in hand, adding to the lunacy.
In conclusion, doing something to “feel superior to someone else” isn’t a typically socially-sanctioned practice, but the feeling is subconsciously reinforced every time I watch one of these shows. As that point of internal satisfaction is reached, I believe somehow the mission of the shows’ producers was fully accomplished.
Reality TV is what you get when you have over 250 networks out there competing for viewers. However, if we had only three networks like years ago, we still wouldn’t know a thing about the Kardashians.