The summer of 2000 I became slightly addicted to, what I think, was the 1st season of Survivor. It was my first modern day reality television show (not counting Star Search or Dance Fever because those were from the stone age) and I swore it would be my last. Yet another example of my lying to myself or simply not realizing what kind of ridiculous, enticing crap would be to come in the following decade.
It was about 7pm and I realized the season finale was about to begin. I went into panic mode. Not because I forgot to set the DVR (there was no DVR) but because I was floating in the middle of the Caribbean and I wasn’t sure how I would find network television. I was on a cruise for my brother’s wedding and being single, I was pretty much on my own for most of the trip. It was glorious. And because of that, luckily, I had no witnesses to my frantic search for a stupid television show in the middle of fucking paradise.
After checking the room, the various lounges and lobbies…I finally found a pub with cable. Cable? Whatever. I caught the very end while I ordered yet another Jack and Coke (I couldn’t take another rum concoction). I vowed I would never watch another reality program again. I mean, I could see being obsessive about something worthwhile…like Sopranos or Ally McBeal. But Survivor? Please. I claimed temporary insanity.
For years I proudly bragged that I had never watched an episode of The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars. There was no way I would watch Real World or even American Idol. Yes, I was cool. I didn’t watch talent-less crap. I was a TV snob and I was better than that. For about five friggin minutes.
Eventually everyone started talking about Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay and Bethenny Frankel. I became fixated on plastic, rich women and cooking competitions. I loved watching dance offs and designing contests. Even the fighting, bickering and personal tragedies sucked me in. And I was quiet about it for a while. Totally in the closet; ashamed of my assimilation.
Now my DVR (best. invention. ever.) is filled with random people who do and say crazy ass nonsense. And it entertains me. I admit it. I love this shit. And I am fully aware of the societal ills it is helping perpetuate. I even recognize how it fucks with my own self image (comparing my body to those on Real Housewives, for example). It wastes time. And often contributes nothing worthwhile to anyone.
But sometimes it does. I have basically learned how to cook – and cook well. I now know how to apply makeup and which clothes look best for my body type. I have been shown that money and beauty do not equal happiness. And some of these shows actually do have altruistic qualities like Home Makeover or Undercover Boss. Many raise money for charity and some may help one realize that it isn’t always better on the other side of the fence. Aside from my own attempts at justification – there truly is SOME merit to SOME of these shows.
I will continue to boast never having watched any Bachleor-esque or Jersey Shore-ish types. But I will admit that this is my first season of Dancing with the Stars. I just simply couldn’t miss Andy Dick doing the cha-cha.