Who? Why, the good people at TLC. No, not Tender Loving Care: The Learning Channel. Yes, my friends, there is a channel on TV that claims to be teaching us something! Dreadful. As though I watch television to be edified. In the past, though, TLC stuck to obviously educational fare with programming such as "Salt Water Taffy: The Mystery Revealed" and the landmark 10-part series "All About Glue."
TLC, in their crafty way, realized that no one really cared about salt water taffy's mysteries, so they decided to add "reality" programming to their lineup. This "reality" programming invariably focused on people who are just like "you and me" except for some crucial difference. Perhaps, like Jon and Kate, they have a huge number of children. Perhaps they are struggling with a genetic condition, such as dwarfism (The Little Couple). The point of these shows seems to be, "Look at these ordinary people, dealing with their extraordinary situations in completely ordinary ways."
Except they can't. They can't deal with their problems in ordinary ways, because there are cameras in their homes and faces 24 hours a day. They have producers. They have handlers. They have bodyguards and press agents and hairdressers and makeup artists. But, most of all, they have sponsors. These folks, no matter how "real" they are in the beginning, eventually devolve into the same tired "celebrity" that most successful reality shows produce. Omorosa. Adrienne Curry. Sanjaya. Tiffany "New York" Pollard. If you don't know who any of these people are, you clearly need a refresher course on what makes REAL "reality" TV.
If you are watching a show that contains the following, you are watching REAL "reality" TV:
1. People eating bugs for money.
2. Women fighting each other for the chance to "date" a has-been/never-was celebrity.
3. Attractive yet stupid people sipping champagne in a hot tub and/or chewing at a trendy restaurant, making conversation so boring you want to leap into the TV and take someone's pulse.
4. Accomplished chefs forced to make gourmet cuisine out of cigarette butts and Spam.
5. Donald Trump.
6. A homosexual fashion designer so flaming one can't look at him directly openly weeping because the skirt he designed was to be cut on the bias and he didn't buy enough fabric. If Tim Gunn is holding him gently and murmuring words like "consternation" or "egregious," count it twice.
7. Dancing, with or without celebrities.
8. Singing, with or without talent.
9. People who have no obvious source of income but spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on hats.
10. Tyra Banks demonstrating how to look happy/sad/playful/sexy/constipated using only your eyes.
What do all of the above shows have in common? They may be unscripted, they may star "real" people as opposed to professional actors, but there is nothing "real" about them. They are as contrived and fake as any scripted television. You can cheerfully root for your hero or root against your villain with a happy heart and clear conscience: this is all in good fun.
Jon and Kate, and other shows of that ilk, are outside what I consider "fun." It came out very recently that Jon allegedly had an affair. Then, Kate allegedly had an affair. Now, they are getting a divorce. They seem to have forgotten that we don't like them because they're celebrities; in fact, most of us don't even like them. People who were following their story were doing it for the kids, rooting for their family. Now, instead of turning off the cameras and attempting to return to some sort of normal life, their family is broken, and every moment is documented so those kids can see it someday.
I wonder what they'll think? I bet they change the channel.