Sunday, March 20, 2011


Paul said something the other day that struck me as very true & worth talking about.
We were listening to a Radiolab podcast. It was really fascinating, dealing with aspects of brain science, language, and how homing pigeons work. People were telling these amazing stories. Of course we had the tv on, or as Paul calls it, "Glass Mother," because he needs that stimulus even though half the time he's looking at the netbook instead. Obviously he had the sound off so we could listen to the podcast. The show on was "Million Dollar Listing," a reality show about spoiled rich kids who sell real estate in California.
Paul's observation: we're looking at this show that's described as "reality" because it depicts real people doing their real jobs. But the show is scripted, and situations are manipulated to tell a story. Now the podcast we're listening to, which is infinitely more interesting, is also produced and manipulated, but it consists of people telling stories that are fascinating, and seems to show us that actual reality is more interesting than the fabricated reality we get on these shows. "I'm sure," he said, "there are aspects of selling real estate that are fascinating. But we're never going to get that from a show like this."
And that's the point, though I'm not sure how to make it. There's something about the phoniness of reality tv that makes it unpalatable. Why is the internet able to provide more stimulating content? I assume it has to do with pandering to the lowest common denominator, or the old saw that no one ever went broke underestimating the public. But with literally over 1,000 television channels, surely someone somewhere can figure out a way to give us worthwhile content. Right?
In a related point, shows like "Intervention" drive me crazy because they contrive these arguments between real addicts and their real families, arguments which probably actually happened in their real lives, recreated for the cameras. But I think I would prefer to see them acted out by professional actors, because these people can never sell me on the idea that the fight is really happening. They don't have the acting chops. But I guess they work cheaper.

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