Reality Television: more than ‘Celebreality’

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By Corinne Love

By Corinne Love

Reality television is awful, awesomely awful.

It’s crass, ridiculous, unabashedly sleazy and creates images that many of us find disheartening or downright stupid.

So why do we watch? Why do we keep our eyes glued to the screen? It’s human nature.

We want to see how other people “live” their lives.

We want to see what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.

Or so they would lead us to believe.

Ever since MTV showcased “The Real World,” television has never been the same.

One of the main problems people have with reality television is the description itself.

Sure, there is nothing realistic about twenty three young women wanting to actually date Bret Michaels.

Furthermore, no one should expect to find ‘love’ on a dating show where people don’t go by their legal names but instead classy nicknames like “Prancer” and “Buckwild.”

On these shows, contestants or characters go on to compete in competitions that will truly prove their love-like mudbowl football and stripping.

It’s enough material to make anyone cringe or laugh with sadness.

This is where American television has reached it’s zeitegeist.

Let us not forget the competition-driven reality shows like “Survivor,” “Amazing Race” and “Big Brother.”

These shows are on local network TV, and they may or may not be scripted.

However, they do give us a glimpse of the American way of approaching competition: it gets ugly.

People lie, cheat, and cry.

Yes, cry. Contestants use emotional pleas as a way to gain leverage to win and viewers are often left thinking “that had to be written that way.”

Then, there are shows like “America’s Next Top Model.” Tyra Banks’s hilariously campy stab at the very serious, very dry and very ‘fierce’ modeling industry.

Tyra tells modeling hopefuls to model with their eyes, to “work it,” all concepts that sound as silly on paper as they are portrayed on screen.

But where other reality programming only shows the ugly side of seemingly contemporary American life, there are reality shows that do present the creative side of life and work hard to show the process.

Bravo’s “Project Runway” was nominated for an Emmy and earned a Peabody award for Excellence in Electronic Media.

The show chronicles the competition of upcoming designers who have one goal.

The goal is to get to Bryant Park for New York Fashion Week.

Contestants on “Project Runway” aren’t just your average viewer sending in a VHS tape, the contestants are screened for talent.

Of course, it’s still a reality show so there is drama, but it also shows how much creativity, and diligence that goes into making fashion.

As Tim Gunn would say it’s about “making it work.”

This side of fashion would be completely lost, if left only to Bravo’s own “Make me a Super Model.”

Also, while MTV seems to be on the fast track to irrelevance with its lack of music videos, the network has managed to redeem itself in other areas.

The network has brought dancing to the public as competition and something to be in awe of.

“Randy Jackson’s America’s Next Best Dance Crew” is all about talent, nothing less.

The “crews” on the show work hard and give it their all.

One can’t speak of MTV reality shows without thinking of the “The Hills” and it’s spin offs.

“The Hills” is an excellent example of polarizing entertainment.

People either loathe it or love it. I’ve never watched an episode of “The Hills” and I don’t plan to.

Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag have as little to do with my life as I do with theirs.

But they do strike a chord with the American public, as the show is consistently receiving new seasons.

And while VH1’s reality shows are always pushing the border on good taste or taste at all, “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” is a compelling look at addiction and celebrity.

The show does have a spin off, “Sober House.”

“Sober House” follows the celebrities who sought treatment in the original program.

These shows seem to say that celebrities are not as perfect as we would like to think they are.

Reality television, is the new television.

As we move forward in society overloaded with sensory input and output, the parameters of voyeurism get shifted.

Our television reflects that.

At times we may cringe, root on in celebration, or get attached to the storylines but by the end of the hour long program we can say “That’s just entertainment!”

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