A Case for Reality

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As a lover of scripted television and fierce opponent of reality TV,  I was dismayed when I realized my roommate’s preference was exactly the opposite. Just as I love a great plot twist and hate the sound of cackling redneck teenagers (MTV’s Buckwild, FYI), he adores watching a big tuna being reeled in and despises the need for a character arc. With one TV in the house, this preferential difference has resulted in some fierce debates and a fair amount of storm offs.

Some nights, I lose, and am forced to watch Californication or Elementary on my computer – as he hoots and howls to the sound of a tree crashing to the ground on Axe Men. But other nights, I win, and he is left trying to understand why Claire Danes won’t stop crying or why exactly Dexter Morgan has to keep killing. Though I admit it is pretty frustrating to have to debate every time I want to watch TV, for the most part, the system works. For whatever reason, last night was not my night. Call it laziness or lack of real desire to watch Girls, but I decided to forego the debating process and succumbed to watching whatever reality TV was on. Though it pains me to say this, I had a pretty enjoyable time!

On last night’s episode of Wicked Tuna for instance, (oooh I didn’t think I would ever say that) after the crews finished arguing about ‘googans’ (weekend fishermen), they began the toiling process of reeling in 300 pound tuna fish. Yes, it may not sound all that exciting, but a part of me was amazed to watch real-life people wrestle with the elements and deal with each other in such tight quarters. They cheered each other on, berated each other when they messed up, slapped hands when they won, and genuinely looked sad when a fish got off the hook. Say what you will about the obvious scripted lines (don’t tell my roommate those exist) but the level of sportsmanship and real emotion just doesn’t exist in scripted television.

Sure, we may smile when Lucy Liu helps Jonny Lee Miller solve a case on Elementary, but does it really last? No. Yes, I have witnessed my colleagues come in genuinely sad after a long night of Parenthood (pun, intended) but after one discussion of a funny piece of dialogue, it appears like they have totally forgotten about the harsh “realities” facing the Braverman family. Maybe it’s just me, but reality TV leaves a much more lasting impression.
After Wicked Tuna, we watched To Catch a Predator. Literally, after every time a perp was busted for trying to seduce a 14 year old, I would turn to my roommate and say “Jared, I’m not having kids – this is unreal.” Over the course of the half hour show, I probably got up from my seat to walk away in horror about 10 times, and still today, it pains me to think about families who have lost children in that way. That show is hard to watch, and reality is just too real some times.

To end the night, we watched Are you Tougher Than a Boy Scout on the National Geographic channel. After To Catch a Predator, I welcomed it with the widest of open arms. The show is about your average weekend camper competing against a trained boy scout over the course of a weekend in the wilderness. The show is gritty, real, and just a great example of man’s desire to survive and compete. The second episode of the series premieres tonight and if you are looking for a pick-me-up, check it out – I promise you will be smiling for longer than you would after Mike & Molly or 2 Broke Girls.

While I am still not totally convinced of the entertainment value of reality TV, I have a feeling I may give up on a few arguments sooner than I might have if these shows are on. And you know what, who am I kidding, do I really care about Hannah’s OCD?

Today’s Poll
Which reality TV show is your favorite?

Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout
Deadliest Catch
Duck Dynasty
Wicked Tuna

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