The Reality Shows Have Writers!? Award Nominees
Like Arthur C. Clarke's predictions of geostationary satellites and floating man-god fetuses, Oswalt's vision of a reality-free future is eerily accurate. While our physical space hasn't quite been eaten by a giant white wave yet, the signs of reality's destruction are as obvious as the motivations behind Tila Tequila's bisexuality. Most glaring? The very words "reality television" connote an unreal experience.
After careful consideration, we at TV Squad, along with your input, have winnowed down the hundreds of possible candidates for "most unreal reality show" to these five...
1. The Hills
The overwhelming reader submission for this category, you have to consider it a front-runner. I left it off the initial list in the "Call for Considerations" post most likely due to the fact that my brain blotted it from my memory as a form of self-defense, Hawkeye Pierce style. Following the lives of Lauren, Spencer, Hillary, Jason, and others, The Hills is mainly devoted to documenting... uh, good looking people staring blankly at each other.
Even the Wikipedia page for this show uses the word "reality" in quotes (and then goes on to mention several instances where the show suffered from obvious manipulation on the part of the producers). What's interesting about The Hills, though, is that the powers that be don't seem to mind you seeing them pulling the strings. Viewing this show is almost like watching the Broadway version of The Lion King: the puppeteers are part of the show.
An ironic hipster stage version of The Hills -- with "producers" pushing around mannequins -- is not just likely, but inevitable.
2. Keeping up with the Kardashians
For fun, read the following passage like you're Jeff Goldblum and you're narrating a late 90s iMac commercial:
"How do you get your own reality TV show?
Step one: Have a big booty.
Step two: Videotape yourself having sex.
Step three: There is no step three!"
In all honesty, I've never seen this show. It gets the nod because I heard a porn star say on Howard Stern that she was cast by the show to appear as a nanny. She wasn't a nanny, but the script called for an inappropriate one, so poof, the Keeping up with the Kardashians producers made her one. You might argue that some of the shows left off this list are more baldly unrealistic than KuwtK, but at least those shows care enough to silence their porn stars.
The only question I have is will appearing in something as deplorable as Keeping up with the Kardashians hurt her porno career?
3. Gene Simmons Family Jewels
When we were going over the nominations at TV Squad's secret lair (inside the hollowed out head of the giant Jean Stapleton statue that overlooks Times Square), GSFJ came up several times. I resisted nominating it simply because Gene Simmons himself is such a giant phony -- I mean, we're talking about a guy who got famous putting on space alien face paint -- that it only stands to reason his reality show would reflect that phoniness. The "reality" of Gene Simmons might be fabricated, but his personage would be aptly captured in the act of that fabrication.
I submitted under pressure from our own Keller brothers. They didn't browbeat me, rather they hit me with two outstanding quips in quick succession:
Rich Keller: "Good God, Gene Simmons Family Jewels is a horrible reality show. All those instances where he JUST meets up with a stranger who is a huge kiss fan. Really, I'm surprised there isn't a studio audience."
Joel Keller: "Gene Simmons' show. It's faker than 's boobs."
I'm a sucker for a funny line. Two of them? Well, that seals the deal for the nomination.
(And before you yell at me in the comments that I'm not taking the nomination process seriously, let me please remind you that half of the voters at the Academy Awards never even see all the movies up for nomination. The other half? Dead. So nyah.)
4. Scott Baio is 46... and Pregnant
I rewatched Zapped! last Saturday night (yeah, I know, I'm living the high life), and I found its premise -- Scott Baio is a genius who accidentally gives himself telekinetic powers which he then uses to make boobs pop out of their blouses -- far more credible than just about anything you see watching the supposed "reality" show he's a part of.
SBi46aP was mentioned in the comments section of the "Call for Considerations" post as having such a weak commitment to reality that they actually allowed one of its principle subjects to be a producer. A quick check to imdb bore this out: Jason Hervey (Wayne on The Wonder Years and "The Troll King" in the Return to Zork video game) "plays" one of Scott Baio's friends while at the same time serving as the executive producer of the show.
Now, while it might be possible that this is a coincidence (he might actually be a friend who helped get the show on the air), it certainly doesn't help the show maintain a documentary-like air of detachment. An executive producer should not be a member of the cast unless it's clear to the audience at all times that the person who is interacting with Scott on film is also the one calling all of the shots behind the camera as well. So far as I know, that's not the case here so SBi46aP gets the nod.
5. Top Chef
This is my controversial choice, but hear me out.
I'm using this a representative pick, designed to stand in for all the "high end" reality shows. See, shows like Top Chef, Survivor, and American Idol are leaps and bounds more slick than any of the other shows on this list, but I would argue that they manipulate reality just as much. You could even say that the manipulation on shows like Top Chef is more insidious because it's less obvious.
The fact of the matter is that reality doesn't have an easily digested storyline. If 24 accurately reflected what a normal person does in 24 hours, there'd be a lot more pooping in primetime. But we expect drama to destroy literal truth in the pursuit of metaphorical truth; it somehow feels wrong when "reality" shows do it. Every interview with every contestant from these shows talks about how the producers can pick and choose moments to construct any story that they want. Villains and heroes are made in the editing room and that's not real.
So, I put Top Chef into the mix not because it's more or less BS than Survivor, American Idol, or any of the others. It's just that I watch this show a lot and it's coming towards its season finale. This category can't be all trash.
|The Hills||230 (51.0%)|
|Keeping up with the Kardashians||65 (14.4%)|
|Gene Simmons Family Jewels||46 (10.2%)|
|Scott Baio is 46... and Pregnant||37 (8.2%)|
|Top Chef||73 (16.2%)|