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Tuesday, January 28, 2003 :::
IF you haven't read the 1/27/03 post on S-CRTV, do so before reading this one. it'll make a lot more sense that way.

so, in reading and responding to yeterday's comments, and re-reading the referenced post, i wanted to add some stuff:

the dating show while not scripted, is still just a cousin, like the talk show. and here's why: the dating shows (and talk shows) are one day events. that is, the action of the show is limited to a single encounter, taped over a single day. so we don't get to know the folks involved so well as we do in the other S-CRTV shows. there's just no time.

not that time will give us a clear picture of our tv paramours. and here's the other thing i wanted to touch on that i'm not sure how i missed the first time: there is very little reality involved, for a very simple reason -- there is always a camera there. and lights. and makeup. and producers. and c. and c. the very fact of being in front of the camera has turned it into a performance, sure, and we all know that they signed up to be there, looking, on some level for their own personal fifteen minutes, maybe even to cash in on them. we also see people put into very unreal situations: living in a glorious mansion with their competitors in love. on a desert island complete with tiki torch voting booths. on a five thousand dollar date. but that's not what i'm talking about. oh, no, what i'm talking about is much more insidous, friends. look again at the list of present distractions on the set of S-CRTV: a camera. and lights. and makeup. and producers. and c. and c.


producers. while the dialogue of these shows is unscripted, it has been all been edited so as to produce ratings. ratings means advertising, advertising means money. it all comes down to money. which means we are looking at what a bunch of tv execs deem acceptable as reality. and then they put it together fancifully, with music, and a knowing glance at us the viewers, reminding us how much better we are than the poor slobs we're about to watch, and then these tv guys laugh all the way to the bank.

oh, and by the way, i watched a bit of joe millionaire last night. it wasn't the dramatic irony that got me, as i had thought. it was the production values. not good television. too winky, not well edited, not interestingly done. i was bored by these people. but maybe that's the fault of the casting director.

"what do you mean," you may ask... "casting director?"

well, i mean just that. these folks are chosen based on their marketability. it's not anyone who can be the star of S-CRTV. it is television after all.

::: posted by matty at 2:02 PM

Monday, January 27, 2003 :::
"if you think that's good, try some 'american idol' on for size... "
~black bekkah on 1/23/03 post, re: so-called reality tv.

yeah. while i enjoy american idol, the trash factor just isn't the same. and here's why:

so-called reality tv (S-CRTV) can be split into, as i see it, two categories:

1) game show
2) voyeurism

there are myriad variations on these two themes, and sometimes they cross into one-another's territory, but at heart, these are our two categories. american idol fits squarely into game show. it is a competition, at the end of which, one lucky contestant will walk away with a record deal. the grandfather of reality shows, the real world, is a clear example of voyeurism... there is no incentive to be on the show other than free rent... there is no prize, no contest, no puzzle... it is (so-called) real life on television. quite clearly bridging the gap, we have big brother, which is a cross between real world and survivor (game show), the show that is generally credited as the reason we (still) have S-CRTV.

anyway, the boundaries are usually pretty clear, but when it comes to the bachelor(ette), the lines are very blurry. here is a show that hosts a contest, but, rather than money or a record deal, the prize is the shot at a social contract. basically we are watching the incredibly compacted dating life of someone on a mission to get married. yes, many of the familiar S-CRTV game motifs are in place -- disparate idividuals vying for a prize living under the same roof, getting voted off the show, but and here's the great part--there are no clear cut rules to this game: there are no teams, there is no room for scheming calculation against your competitors, there are no clear cut tasks to complete with physical acumen, because in the end, it's the prize that makes the decisions. but, the twisted thing is, no proposal is required at the end of the show, and even if one occurs, the lucky contestant can decline. so everyone can lose.

american idol is great because the judges have such distinct personalities, and so succinctly sum up what we're all thinking when we watch the poor unfortunate souls who think they have what it takes to be the title character of the show. yes, the judges' remarks are wonderfully catty and caustic, and the pain on the hopefuls' faces is beautifully self-righteously confused. and while in these first few rounds, the judges have the power, when it comes down to it, we, the viewers get to play god and vote the kids off, laughing all the way. and who among us doesn't like to laugh at those less fortunate than ourselves?

this, of course, is the prevailing sentiment behind all S-CRTV (and it's cousin, the talk-show)-- we all get to laugh at those less fortunate than ourselves. or marvel, or turn in disgust, or study, or revel in our betterness, or most humanly, combine all of the above. which is why the game shows are less interesting to me... because i'm as interested in the phenomenon of wanting to be on television for no other reason than to well, be on television... the people on temptation island, for example, get a two week vacation in tahiti, or wherever, but with the most likely outcome of losing their significant others. it's a high school beach party on televison, except these people signed up to be on television.

we've had candid-camera for decades, with guys like jamie kennedy carrying the torch -- but the practical joke shows lack a key element of S-CRTV: willing participation. the JKX'd didn't know at the time they were being X'd, and after 15 minutes of agony get paid healthily to have their pain shown on television. while the real worlders, and the bachelors, and island temptors, and the rest signed up. so now, they've made a new sub-genre: humiliation. on joe millionaire (which i've never watched) the premise is exactly the same as the bachelor -- a number of hot/desperate young women sign up to be courted by a hot/desperate young man, vying with their housemates for his attention, slowly being voted off by him, with the hopes of a ring, and a share of his 50 million dollars. the twist being, he doesn't have 50 million dollars. he's a manual laborer, and fox is putting one over on these girls -- something they don't find out until they leave the show. so we get the whole dramatic irony aspect as well. i find shows like this hard to watch, because the extra step to make sure these girls are humiliated seems to me like gilding the lily. i mean, going on one of these shows is really bad enough.

in the end, my favorite S-CRTV shows are the ones that are the most postmodern... the bachelorette comes close, because all of these guys are on the show not to meet a brand new stranger, but someone who they saw lose out in the final episode of the original bachelor. let me make this clear: these guys all saw trista on the bachelor last year, watched her fall madly for a guy she'd known for six weeks, in the total artifice of televison (we'll get there in a minute), and then get jilted. then when it came time to make the bachelorette, the wizards at abc knew they'd have a hit, because we all already knew and loved our bachelorette, and felt sorry for her, and wanted her (because she's hot, and a dancer for the atlanta hawks, and she loves children so much she became a physical therapist for them. and then they told the men to come on the show, and they did, in droves, because they were part of the sad, loving audience of that first season. my friends, david foster wallace was surely proud (ask me later.) but not as proud as when he saw the surreal life, which is the real world meets where are they now. meaning seven has-been celebrities take up house together for two weeks, with nothing at stake. no voting off, no prize, nothing. just a shot at their former glory. now, normally, not so po-mo. until you find out that the mystery seventh housemate is actually jerri, from survivor: outback. a woman who is on the S-CRTV show for famous people who got her fame, by being on a S-CRTV show.

these are the reasons i love S-CRTV. it's all so bizarre. plus you actually get to hear stuff like: "for the most part I am a very private person."

i shit you not.

::: posted by matty at 5:29 PM

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