I hadn’t talked to my girlfriend Rosie in quite some time. One night, when I was done saving the world for yet another day (actually, I had been touching up my roots, but believe you me, with one less person roaming the streets with fucked up looking hair, I feel the world is a much safer place), I decided to call her.
“Hey honey, can I call you back? I’m watching Survivor. Someone’s getting voted off the island!” she squealed.
“Um...sure,” I replied
A few weeks later, something similar occurred with my best friend Louise and her husband.
“Hi Robby. Can you call us back after ten? Rob and I are watching The Apprentice.”
“Um...sure,” I replied.
The next day I was having lunch with my friends Andrew and Steven.
“So you guys wanna go see The Phantom Of the Opera with me next week?” I asked, between bites of my salad.
“That would be cool,” Steven answered. “What night?”
“Wednesday,” I said.
“Shit, we can’t,” Andrew spoke up.
“Oh damn, that’s right,” Steven continued. “They’re having finalist week on American Idol. Sorry.”
I almost choked on my food. If a fork were a deadly weapon, I would have seriously considered using it on both of them at that moment.
When did people stop living their own lives just to turn around and watch people live their's on national television? It doesn’t make a whole helluva lot a sense to me.
“I bet if it was a gay one you’d be a watchin' it,” Big Bertha countered when I posed this question to her at our weekly family dinner. Big Bertha, by the way, is my Mother. This is the alias she has chosen in the event that she made her way into my work. As she is the woman who coined the phrase “I look like mousey under the tub,” when I introduced her to highlighting, I thought, one, how could I not write about her, and two, Big Bertha? With everything else she says and does, why not? (For the record, if anyone knows just what the fuck “mousey under the tub” means, please e-mail me! I’m morbidly curious).
“There are gays ones, Mother, and they don’t interest me either. I mean, really. I’ve got better things to do with my time than to watch five grown men prance around playing fairy godmother to a hapless straight dude. I do that everyday. Where’s my television show?”
“Well, when you was younger you used to watch that Real World. Remember? It had that nice homosexual on it. What was his name?”
“His name was Norman, Mother. And I was 12. Besides, the only reason I watched that show was because the other roommate, Eric, had a great body, not to mention a fantastic ass.”
After making the sign of the cross, Big Bertha turned to me and said, “Well, to each his own I always says. Maybe you ain’t suppost to understand why people watch 'em. Hell, I don‘t understand why people do half the shit they do. I reckon' its their own damn business.”
Was my Mother actually on to something? Or was she clearing a blockage? It’s often very hard to tell with her. Not being the kind of person to let something be, I decided the only way to find out what the appeal was to all of these reality shows was to sample a few myself. And let me tell you, kids, the results were not pretty. My opinions will be fast and furious.
Donald Trump can afford better hair. How about he hire a hairdresser first, then someone to run one of his companies? Of course, they’d have to call Somebody Do His Fucking Hair, not The Apprentice, and something tells me NBC wouldn’t like that. Oh well. It’s their loss. The blonde from The Bachelorette? It’s funny, really. During the entire hour, whenever she went to open her mouth, all I could hear was the ocean. The Biggest Loser. I just assume serve my ass up on golden platter at the local prison than to talk about my weight on national television. You couldn’t pay me enough. The appeal of Survivor was lost on me as well. I go camping every summer in Canada with my friends. They’ll be the first to tell you that being stuck in the woods for three days with me is hard enough. Fuck this whole being stranded on an island bullshit. They wouldn’t have a show. I would have gotten pissed off and would have just eaten everybody at the first opportunity. And American Idol? I don’t need the aggravation. I get exasperated with Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson as it is. And they have legitimate record deals. And speaking of American Idol, when did Paula Abdul become an authority on singing? That would be like me having Dick Cheney as my wedding planner. Now who the fuck thinks that’s a good idea?
And that’s just plain old regular network television. The amount of reality based programming that’s popped up on cable damn near staggers me as well. My Mother mentioned MTV’s The Real World. What about it? It’s never been as great as it was the first two years (yummy Eric who I mentioned before and Season Two’s resident diva/fabulous bitch Tami!), so why bother? I have caught a few glimpses here and there of the most current season and I have to tell you, save for the blonde, buff, damn, I want to eat his ass M.J., the rest of the show is about as tolerable as the Q-tip test at the local STD clinic. But I digress. A&E has Growing Up Gotti. I couldn’t even get through the first five minutes...and I love Victoria Gotti! She’s a tough, take no prisoners kind of broad, and I can relate to that. But would someone please call her and tell her to get control of those ridiculous hair extensions, not to mention those obnoxious brats she calls her children (okay, I’ll admit it, in a few years, all of her boys are gonna be fine as hell, but Christ almighty, for the time being, can someone just tell them to shut the hell up, stand there, and look pretty?).
I was less annoyed with TLC’s offerings, but not by much. I can’t deal with Trading Spaces. I’m sure host Paige Davis is a terrific person, she certainly is perky enough. But I’m almost certain that anyone whose voice can trigger seizures should probably be avoided. On the flip side, designer Barry Wood can redecorate my house anytime he wants. He’s so cute! Host Evan Farmer and handyman Jason Cameron from While You Were Out have the same effect on me, and trust me, they are the only reasons to watch that show. In a Fix gets a few points because I think crewmember Greg Carey is just hysterical. But the only show I would actually watch again is What Not To Wear. Fashion gurus Stacy London (Girl, I love you in those shoes!) and Clinton Kelly (Girl, I love you in those pants!) are two of the cattiest bitches on television. They will tell you exactly what they think of you! And I live for that shit! But even still, I’m not going to shut the world out on a Friday night just to watch the damn thing. That’s why we have VCRs kids (and for those of you living in the future, insert DVDR in place of VCR.)
This whole reality television craze has led me to one conclusion. God, this country is starved for real culture and entertainment. I'm so thrilled to be able to point this out to you! My advice? Turn off the television, return those phone calls to the people you blew off in order to watch all of this crap, and then do something stimulating. It's called reading a book. Or, at the least, keep reading my columns!
Essential Download: "Why Do the Wrong People Travel"
Artisit: Elaine Stritch
Available On: Elaine Stritch: At Liberty