The Reality Shows Have Writers!? Award: Winner - VIDEO
Here's what I learned: Gene Simmons... Bruce Leroy you are not. The next time I refer to something as a potential "hoot", I've given my wife permission to beat me unconscious with a shovel. A severe beating would be less painful than watching another minute of our nominee shows.
That said, I did enjoy the process of figuring out which show would "win" this award. After careful consideration of the words of my wizened TV Squad colleagues and the input of our enlightened readership, we have finally found our winner.
Let me draw this out a little, Seacrest-style. First a look at what didn't get picked:
1. Keeping up with the Kardashians. I felt for sure that this would engender a little more discussion. After all, these are awful people acting awfully and being rewarded for it. When you throw into the mix that the main "character" of the show not only made a dubious "private" sex tape, but also had a father who helped O.J. go free, I thought just nominating this show would make for a vitriol jamboree. It got nary a mention in the comments, however, and I'm still bemused about it.
2. Scott Baio is 46...and Pregnant! Scott Baio's meditation on the ups and downs of fatherhood has all the nuance and insight of the "All the Kids are Doing it" episode of The CBS Schoolbreak Special. The only difference is that the latter is better acted than the former. I suppose that Baio's innate charm was enough to save this one from itself.
3. Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Joel Keller was the biggest proponent of this nominee. He correctly pointed out that while Scott Baio has the charisma to make us forgive the trespasses of his unreal reality show, Gene Simmons actually has the opposite effect on his show. What's the opposite of charisma? Arisma? Geneisma? I don't know. Either way, while Joel makes a good point, we decided to go in another direction.
4. Top Chef. This stand-in for the "high end" reality shows actually got a good portion of the reader voting. It seemed a lot of you agreed with me that even though shows like Top Chef, American Idol, and Extreme Makeover are slicker and better produced than dreck like Gene Simmons and Anything Connected to Flava Flav, they're still subject to the same manipulations of reality. It would have been a bold choice to go in this direction, but, ultimately, we felt the wrong choice.
What was the right choice? The Hills, of course.
Crushing in the reader voting and also in the TV Squad staff discussions, The Hills had just the right mixture of media exposure and high-octane bullsh*t to run away with this award.
As Kristin Sample wrote in our discussions:
"When I talked to the girls on the red carpet, they couched everything in scripted-show terms. Like, 'Oh I don't know how many scenes they have me scheduled [for] or [what's happening] next season.'"
When even the main players on a show gets confused about whether its real or scripted, it's a pretty fair bet that truth is probably being blurred just a bit.
Here are some more examples of how fluid the idea of reality is on The Hills (courtesy of Wikipedia):
-- In Season 3 episode 11 where Conrad goes on a date with male model Gavin Beasley, she is seen wearing red nail polish. When she goes home and calls Jenner directly afterward, she is seen with flesh-colored nails. Beasley is quoted by VH1's Best Week Ever as saying that producers set up the date
-- As posted by TMZ.com, Heidi and Spencer were seen filming a scene at LAX where Heidi was departing to visit her family in Colorado. They were then photographed an hour later in different clothing, filming a reunion scene at the same airport on the same day.
-- In Season 3 episode 10 Spencer has a full beard in the previous episode, it is shaved during the first scenes but fully grown when Heidi arrives home from lunch.
The list goes on, but you get the point.
Here's the thing that I find most interesting: none of the fans seem to care. This isn't like professional wrestling in the 80s, when some mullet-loving diehards maintained that everything we were seeing was real. The people who watch The Hills are media-savvy enough to know they're digesting BS, but they keep on shoveling it in anyway.
It makes me wonder if we're so used to having the "truth" manipulated for media purposes that we not only don't mind it, we actually expect it. For instance, if we found out that "Spencer" did not actually exist, but rather was a computer creation layered over the real Spencer would there be any outrage? Would fans of the show boycott? My guess would be no. There'd be a shrug -- that's just what these shows do -- and then it'd be business as usual.
Not to end on a down note, but I can't help but think this cavalier attitude toward the truth is dangerous. Pundits will go on and on about how our kids shouldn't be running over prostitutes in Liberty City, but not a single one thinks it's a bad thing that our kids are learning "truthiness" over actual truth. Could it be because learning to accept BS helps pundits?
Now, enjoy some video of our favorite real fake people on our favorite real fake show The Hills. While you're watching it, try to think of the philosopher Harry Frankfurt's words:
Bullsh*t is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.