Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reality is King

I just watched the worst tv show ever. I don't watch a lot of tv and now I know why. Here at Osan, all we get is AFN (Armed Forces Network), unless you go through all kinds of complicated and expensive machinations to get more channels.

Since I don't watch much tv and I have a special loathing for reality tv, it is entirely possible that 'Rock of Love' is not, in fact, the worst show ever, but it is surely in the top ten. If you are not familiar with it, it stars Bret Michaels, a washed-up rock star trying to hang onto his glory days. He is looking for his one true love, that splendid and devoted lass that won't mind him sleeping with groupies on the road. The show is in season 11, so he doesn't seem to be having much luck.

Twenty-seven years ago, Stephen King published a story called '
The Running Man'. You can read the plot synopsis if you click on the link, but it's a story about a network that runs 'game shows' in which people die, for entertainment. The contestants are forced into appearing, either for punishment, or because they are desperate for one reason or another. In 1982, the year the story was published, MTV's 'The Real World' was still ten years away. 'The Real World' was the first American foray into what we now call reality tv, though there had already been some similar European and Japanese efforts. 

I'm paraphrasing King's thoughts here, because I can't recall the source for his words; it could have been the preface to the book, or it could have been his book on writing, or perhaps an interview. He was addressing the idea that the game shows in the story were outrageous and ridiculously far-fetched, and pointed out that humans have been entertaining themselves by torturing and killing each other since humanity began, and used the excellent and appropriate example of the Romans 'gaming' with Christians and others in the Coliseum. He said that game shows like the ones he described were in our future.

Is 'Rock of Love' in the same category as 'The Running Man' game? Well, probably not. Yet. But a society in which thousands of women will audition to be on a show where they will demean themselves and one another while viciously competing to be the future ex-girlfriend of a stringy-haired, makeup-wearing guitar player is but a few steps away. Maybe next season the ratings will go down, so instead of putting the contestants in bikinis and hooker heels, they'll give them whips. Then, the pool of volunteers might go down, because now it's dangerous. So, the network works a deal with the LA court system: The show will provide employment and oversight of the most attractive minor offenders to save the taxpayers the cost of trying and punishing them. Everyone wins!

See what a slippery slope it is? And when Stephen King is accurately predicting the future, it's time to wake up and smell the offal.

3 comments:

Wendy Hawksley said...

I love "Rock of Love". It is my not-so-guilty-yes-I-admit-to-watching-it pleasure. Heh.

But is it stupid? Yup. Is it worthy of an Emmy? Hells no! Worst TV show ever? Hmm... Quite potentially, but it would have some serious competition with "Flavor of Love" and "Megan Wants a Millionaire". ;-)

Helen said...

Did you read the story on CNN.com this morning about the reality TV "star" who just killed his swimsuit model girlfriend?

Amanda Evans said...

So, I hate reality TV too...and luckily we didn't see too much of it at Osan. However, since getting my cable hooked up in NC (250 channels...can you believe that? CRAZY...I almost miss AFN)it seems like all channels are reality. But anyway, I am sitting here at 11 pm with about 10 reality shows to choose from. I'm currently watching "Toddlers and Tiaras". It is insane!!! But, I can't seem to turn it off...hahaha!