Switch on your television. Go on, I know you want to. If you have cable I’m sure a majority of the programs on your listings page are reality shows of some kind.
My first recollection of a reality show is MTV Road Rules and that other show about hot, 20 something guys and girls all living together in a cool condo - Big Brother in perhaps its earliest avatar (anyone remember the name of that show?) Survivor and its spin offs all figure much later in my time line of reality shows (but I could be wrong, so feel free to correct me).
We’ve had all kinds of reality shows – teams battling it out on exotic islands for money, people eating kangaroo testicles for money, people getting plastic surgery live without paying any money. But the ones that interest me the most are the new breed of shows. (well, new to me) The ‘let us help make your life better’ shows. They’re all over the place tackling every aspect of human life – financial, sexual, romantic and professional.
Got problems with the kids? Call Supernanny. £40,000 in debt? Watch Bank of Mum and Dad (poor unsuspecting parents who think Jr. is £300 in debt find out they need to add a few extra zeroes to the figure). Not able to prevent your children from growing up to be ASBO awarded, drug selling yobs? Tune in to Honey, we’re Killing the Kids. Missed health ed classes and don’t know that brushing your teeth twice a day is good for you? Don’t worry you can always find out about the benefits of toothpaste by watching Too Posh to Wash.
The scary thing is that the above list is very real. And just skims the surface. Pay off your mortgage in 2 years, Look 10 years younger, You are What you Eat… the list of shows is endless. Forget DIY programs, what you should be watching these days is hour long specials on how to fix your life, not bad plumbing.
So why are these programs so popular? Why do parents need to be told that it’s not ok for their diabetic 6 year old to be eating Kit Kats every day and that it will kill them? Why do young people not know that it’s a bad idea to be 50k in debt and that declaring bankruptcy is not a fun thing to do? It’s appalling to see how inept some people are at – well running their lives. And that they need to be told s-l-o-w-l-y by a posh dietician and therapist to eat a bit more fruit and veg everyday and that their 4 year old should not call mummy a bitch.
So I’m wondering – what is it that’s made people this way? Is it family background? A lack of basic education? Sheer stupidity?
These shows are on air because there’s a need for them. And they’re probably helping a lot of people out there. But if we think the government is getting too nanny-ish for our liking, what do we have to say about our television channels?
And I can’t help but wonder where all this is leading? Learn to make your own bed shows? Don’t forget to take out the trash specials? How to chew your food documentaries?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and set some emotional boundaries with The Sherpa. The television told me to.