Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

August 22, 2013

My take on reality shows

By Dan Graves Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — “You have all done well, but now one of you must go (camera pans the anxious faces while dramatic music plays in the background).”

The “emcee” looks at each contestant slowly, letting the tension build until you, the viewer, is sitting on the edge of your seat, your lips moving silently. “Don’t pick Leroy, don’t pick poor ‘ol Leroy.” After the obligatory 15 seconds of drama, he says, “Leroy, because you refused to leap off the 100-foot-tall cliff into a three-foot deep mud pit filled with boa constrictors, you have been voted off.”

Leroy, with a look of dejection, picks up his backpack and walks off. And so it goes with the onslaught of so-called reality shows that are coming in droves to entertain us.

Normally, I try to find something to do to occupy my time rather than sit in front of the TV and suffer emotional ups and downs by identifying with the plots and characters. But sometimes, after finishing the last of the books on the shelf for the second time, and six inches of snow nixes sitting on the front porch, I’m forced to endure today’s entertainment on the old boob tube.

Unfortunately, I’m soon relating to the characters and mentally assuming their roles. After a half hour of Duck Dynasty I have almost urges to grow a beard, buy a duck call and start speaking in a deep southern drawl. That would get me kicked out of the neighborhood social club.

American Pickers features two gentlemen who roam the country searching through barns and sheds for antique and collectible items that I assume they sell to some hapless customers. I say hapless because the values they place on some of the junk they buy would confuse a Swiss banker.

For instance, they love old bicycles and go agog at the sight of one that, as far as I’m concerned, would take first prize in any rusty hulk contest. There’s a big difference between restoration and resurrection in my opinion. Nevertheless, I find myself roaming through antique malls looking for one of those priceless examples. I’ve yet to find an old oil can worth more than 50 cents, yet these guys fork over many times more for one.

I guess I’m just not hip to today’s antique market. Some other popular (I guess) shows are Wife Swap (that one takes the Dimmy Emmy), Big Brother, Survivor, Get Out Alive, Swamp People, Doomsday Castle, and the latest, The Legend Of Shelby The Swamp Man. In fact, these shows are showing up at the same rate as fleas multiplying on a dog. I suppose it’s only natural that Chumly of Pawn Stars shares the same star status as Johnny Depp. Ah, for the good old days of Red Skelton, The Smothers Brothers, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and Saturday Night Live with John Belushi and Gilda Radner.

Now, I’m going to step on a few toes of those who enjoy watching the flood of reality shows that are appearing on all the major networks. By definition, a reality show features no set script with supposedly everyday people as the main characters. However, it’s difficult to imagine these “contestants”, such as those on Get Out Alive, being in real peril with scads of camera, sound, and lighting crews in the background, not to mention all the safety and medical people as well as a platoon of insurance adjusters standing by in case someone nips their finger. If contestants really had to depend on whatever washes up on the beach for food and breaking coconuts with rocks for liquids, the only people to sign up as contestants would be inmates on death row. Either way their number would be up. Or to quote an old saying, “I wouldn’t get up out of the electric chair to do that.”

If reality shows are the up and coming form of entertainment I’d like to suggest a few subjects that are a little closer to everyday reality. The first is, “How to Get Through the Checkout Lane With Only Two Items At a Mega Mart In Less Than Twenty Minutes.” Contestants would be chosen on their abilities in fidgeting, uttering unique oaths under their breath, and making snide remarks about the person in front who is standing under the sign that says “20 Items Or Less” with 50 items in their cart and trying to use a debit card on an overdrawn bank account. The winner would be the person who endures it calmly without throwing a temper tantrum.

Next would be “Demolition Derby Survival”. Here, the contestants would be given a driving destination with the following rules. All speed limits must be obeyed. The route will be on two lane roads only. No interactions with other motorist’s reactions to contestant’s driving at actual legal speeds will be allowed, except for the following: returning hand gestures and shouted expletives. Not allowed are retaliatory fender bending, fisticuffs, and shootouts. Higher points will be awarded to the contestants who return gestures and expletives with a smile on their face. All contestants would be required to furnish proof of financial responsibility for posting bail and legal representation should they lose their temper and commit assault and battery on any irate motorist who considers speed limit signs as targets for midnight mischief.

I’m not sure what qualifies as a reality show, but from what I’ve seen on The 5 O’clock News, “Get Out Alive” and “Doomsday Castle” don’t seem so far fetched after all.