January 15, 2011 in Washington Voices

Reality TV too sorry to stomach

By The Spokesman-Review

Most of us know a Renee. Yours might be named Joe or Jane or Paulo, but mine was Renee.

Renee was a long ago acquaintance who made Job’s wretched life look like a walk in the park. Her invisible Velcro strip latched on to every bad vibe cast into the wind with tenacity. From broken bones to family upheaval to illnesses and beyond, Renee had more problems than Pfizer has pills.

At first, her litany of woes, strife and mishaps were interesting. It was difficult to fathom how so much bad stuff could happen to one pathetic soul, and I willingly provided a vat of sympathetic responses. Curiosity, however, was the culprit that kept me spellbound.

After a time, the too many mishaps became curiouser and curiouser. Pointed questions were batted away with a wave of Renee’s bandaged hand and the telling of another unbelievable tale. Renee was a misery-loves-company kind of gal, a con artist who sought the all-about-miserable-me demon with gusto.

The Renees are everywhere. In fact, they’ve ganged up and taken it one step further by moving from the shadows and dumping their hooey on the public via reality television shows. The more outlandish the life, the more people watch. Today, Renee’s attention-seeking missiles would have made her beaucoup bucks as well as the Neurotic of the Year award.

Curiosity is the tantalizing key in reality programming. Sharp observers of human psyche know curiosity is the mover and shaker of inventiveness, the eye of the storm, the seeker of tall tales, the definer of gossip. In short, curiosity is the stuff reality shows thrive on and booty-licious cameras have been hitched to television ever since. These shows are widely popular because of one simple instinct: curiosity.

In “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” viewers watch Kim fret over her single-at-30 status while flaunting her multimillion-dollar lifestyle. Fans of “American Chopper” can’t wait for another clash between Paul Sr. and Paulie. And don’t get me started on “Man vs. Food,” the gastrointestinal fiasco that has got to be causing some serious damage to Adam Richman’s stomach. The Osbournes – has anyone figured out Ozzie’s primal grunt? Now his daughter, Kelly, is getting all up in the press because she – wait for it – lost weight.

But it doesn’t stop there, reality TV has poked its intrusive camera lens into numerous genres – documentary (“Jersey Shore”), science (“Mythbusters”), dating (“The Bachelor/Bachelorette”), law enforcement (“COPS”), lifestyles (“Nanny 911”), reality game shows (“Survivor”), makeovers (“What Not to Wear”), celebrity docu-soaps (“Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood”), talent (“American Idol”) and parodies (“The Office”).

Admittedly, reality shows have graced my screen and, like Renee, piqued my curiosity, but nowadays my attention span is similar to a former vice-presidential candidate’s – here today, gone like buckshot in the Alaskan winds tomorrow – and hanging on until the last brutal minute to hear another obvious remedy in taming unruly kids while suppressing the urge to slap some sense into the parents is a night spent in futility.

I’m not interested in who gets the rose, what Jersey, Orange or Atlanta housewife is wallowing in self-pity and what type of fatherhood Snoop Dogg can jiggy up. The Kardashians are not my cup of catfight. Gene Simmons should not only lock up his family jewels but throw away the key, and Tommy Lee going to college? Get real.

The thing is, these shows are hugely popular, so it must be me or perhaps my curiosity bone has slipped a disk. These days I’m dull, boring and seriously looking for entertainment that doesn’t encourage backstabbing everything from pineapples to people.

You know, if I had an ounce of booty-brains, I’d convince the producers of no-talent-but-lots-of- stupid-stuff shows to toss an aging twit like me into the sea of youthful tweets currently hogging the screen and star in a compellingly boring reality show complete with mindless but self-serving title. Something like, “Bab’s Sittin’ on her Bobo” or “Sista’ S Shakin’ in Spookaloo.”

Hollywood, here I come.

Contact correspondent Sandra Babcock by e-mail at Sandi30@comcast.net.

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