TV Reality Vs. TV Fantasy

by Theresa Wiza

Arthur Godfrey & Alan Funt, who were big deals once upon a time

When Alan Funt’s Candid Camera television program made its debut in 1948, Funt unknowingly created the reality TV genre. From that first hilarious peek into the human spirit came shows like America’s Funniest Videos, Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d, and more.

The same year Funt debuted Candid Camera, Arthur Godfrey showcased struggling artists in his Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.

1948 – Two shows. 2012 – How many reality series and talent competitions are on TV today? Does anybody know? I don’t and I don’t want to take the time to count them all. (If YOU would like to count them, please visit Reality TV World.)

Do we really need that many real-life soap operas and talent competitions on television? Are our lives so boring we have to rely on other people to entertain us? Surprisingly, we devote only one and a half hours a day to television according to statistics provided on the blog Yo, Americans, You Aren’t Watching Enough TV (written by TV Writer™ administrator and television writer, Larry Brody).

I find those stats hard to believe. Statisticians must have included babies, both born and in utero. Because with all the media coverage about reality series like Jersey Shore and Keeping Up With The Kardashians, along with talent competitions like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, I think some people are lying about the fact that they don’t watch much television.

Maybe they watch too much. Our definition of entertainment has dramatically changed over the years. Reality shows have proliferated to a point I refer to as “ridicule us” – yes, audiences and tabloids alike seem to enjoy mocking participants of reality series, and judges derive great pleasure in taunting competitors.

In defense of audiences, tabloids (I can’t believe I’m defending tabloids), and judges, some of the people who appear on televised competitions really haven’t mastered their talents enough to compete. Some people just want more than their fair share of “15 minutes of fame,” something Andy Warhol intuitively predicted in 1968 when he said that in the future everybody would be world famous for 15 minutes. Then again, some of those auditions are hilarious and give us all something to talk about at the water cooler the next day.

Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate talent competitions because I love the fact that people who might not otherwise be given an opportunity to showcase their talents have a venue to do so. But I have to be honest with you – I’m not at all fond of reality series, especially when they delve into lives of people I don’t care to know.

Honey Boo Boo Child, for instance. HOW, I repeat HOW did that show happen? I don’t get it. According to Mitch Albom, in his blog, This honey child is a real boo boo, nearly 2 million Americans watch her: “Two million people find this entertainment. Two million! And forget about the train wreck defense. Sorry. People stare at a train wreck and then move on. They don’t set up shop to keep looking every week.”

Train wreck aside, the reason I don’t like these types of reality shows is because “reality” shows are not real. If they were real, nobody would watch them. Nobody can convince me that drama queens act like drama queens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I know some drama queens. Even drama queens (male and female) have down time. These shows may not be scripted but the actors are certainly persuaded to exaggerate (dramatize) their situations. After all, drama makes for good TV.

I do like reality shows, though – my kind of reality shows. Most of the books in my bookcase are nonfiction. As a writer interested in research on diet, exercise, nutrients, vitamins, and health (mental and physical), I watch The DoctorsDr. Oz, and Dr. Phil for tips and information. To satisfy my creative cravings, I tune into The Nate Berkus Show. For real comedy, I rely on EllenThose are my kinds of reality shows.

The kinds of fantasy I prefer are fantasy shows that could be real. From 1993 to 2002, I couldn’t wait to run home to watch X-Files, for instance. X-Files was exciting and entertaining.

In my early years, I sat mesmerized as Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone took me to the Outer Limits and One Step Beyond. I was also intrigued by suspense and mystery in shows like, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Yes, mystery, intrigue, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, and creativity all draw me into a program.

But I’m also fascinated with the mentality of criminals. Two of my favorite shows are NCIS and Criminal Minds. And I’m always ready for a good laugh. So sometimes I reminisce with reruns: The Dick Van Dyke ShowNewhart,Everybody Loves RaymondFriendsFrasierM*A*S*HCheersSeinfeld, and so many other excellent sitcoms that no longer stream live.

But back to fantasy – to suit my eclectic tastes, every once in a while, maybe once or twice a week, I want a show that takes me outside myself, outside my own imagination. I first began watching The Vampire Diaries to feel closer to my son. It was one of his favorite shows. Because he is a U.S. Marine and has been away for most of his adult life (Iraq four times and now living several states away – still a Marine), The Vampire Diaries became something we shared. Ian Somerhalder didn’t hinder my appreciation of the show either. :)

Supernatural was another of my son’s favorite shows and it appealed to my love of all things paranormal. Though lately the show has become somewhat complicated, the writers have an amazing sense of humor, especially when it comes to conversations between brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.

Creative shows like Fringe stretch my imagination and take me into the realm of unexplained phenomena where worlds rip apart to expose other worlds.

Fantasy and psychological insights into character are abundant in Grimm and Once Upon a TimeOnce Upon a Time is probably the most creative program on television these days. The action takes place in Storybrooke, a magical place filled with princes, curses, fairy tales, castles, and more, where every character alternates between two lives in two different time periods. Fairy tale characters who think they’re real – how imaginative! Always entertaining, each week is more surprising than the last.

That’s the kind of drama that sustains my interest – not the fluffy “let’s-watch-foo-foo-who-who-go-to-Rodeo-Drive-to-get-a-pedicure” stuff. I want SUBSTANCE. I want ESCAPE. I want the world around me to dissolve as I become one with the program. My life is dramatic enough – I don’t need to see that kind of drama on TV. When the lights go down and the television turns on, I’d rather be in Storybrooke than Jersey Shore.

This article originally appeared in Theresa’s blog, which you all should be going to. Big thanks to TW for letting us reprint it here.

Richard Hatem Develping “Procedural” for The CW

Well, the CW is calling the following premise a procedural anyway. Which may be a sign of why they always get these things wrong. Anyway:

CW Developing Case-of-the-Week Drama From ‘Grimm’ Scribe – by Leslie Goldberg

The CW is getting into the procedural business.

The young-skewing network has given script orders toWrecking Ball, a case-of-the-week drama from Grimm’s Richard HatemThe Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The project from CBS Television Studios revolves around a John F. Kennedy Jr.-type character who teams with a young campaign strategist to solve underdog cases.

Hatem, whose credits also include the network’s Supernatural and The Secret Circle, will pen the project and executive produce alongside Ross Fineman (FX’s Lights Out).

Read it all

Two things strike us about this concept.

  1. Unusual choice of protagonists – political types during a time when older-skewing audiences are very anti anything having to do with politics
  2. These article reads exactly as though it were written for Deadline.Com – did somebody at the Reporter steal Nikki Finke’s style book?

We look forward to seeing what happens next. Both regarding this series and the massive retaliation Nikki is well-known for. (Or maybe Lesley Goldberg is about to get a new job?)

Someone We Don’t Know Reviews GRIMM’s Season 2 Premiere

…And he seems to have liked a lot about it. Which makes us smile because we like it too:

Review: NBC’s ‘Grimm’ returns, improved, for season 2 – by Alan Sepinwall

I stopped watching “Grimm” after the first few episodes last year as part of my inevitable fall season triage. Outside of Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe, and whatever residual trust David Greenwalt had built up from the “Buffy”/”Angel” days, I didn’t see enough there to merit making the long-term investment on an inconvenient night, and the one episode NBC sent out later in the year didn’t do much for me, either…

But given Greenwalt, and given that this is a relatively slow time of year, I decided to give “Grimm” one more chance. As mentioned on the podcast, I asked the show’s publicist to highlight a handful of season 1 episodes I could watch to A)see examples of the show at its best, and B)be able to follow things when I watched the second season premiere…

And having watched those four hours, I can say that I did see a clear improvement from the show I had witnessed last fall. The supporting cast was better used, there were occasional touches of humor beyond Monroe, they mythology didn’t just feel like a retread of bits from “Buffy,” “Angel,” etc., and I even thought leading man David Giuntoli had gotten better — not to the point of being an asset, necessarily, but at least to where I no longer looked at him as a poor man’s Brandon Routh. He doesn’t have a ton of range, but he also doesn’t seem like a charisma vacuum.

Still, Giuntoli rising to a level of adequacy doesn’t solve the problem that I would enjoy “Grimm” more if it were centered around virtually any other character in the ensemble: Monroe obviously (“Angel”-esque piece, with more humor, in which a monster is forced to go against his own kind), but also Hank (a cop who doesn’t even have the Grimm bloodlines has to engage in this business), Captain Renard (story told from the villain’s POV), maybe even Juliet (veterinarian by day, monster-fighter by night!). “Buffy” had snappy dialogue to carry us over those early rough patches, but it also had Sarah Michelle Gellar doing transcendent work at the center of the show…

Unless Giuntoli continues to get (significantly) better, I feel like he limits the ceiling of “Grimm.” Over time, it’s turned into a much better example of the show it wants to be, but how much more room does it have to grow?

Read it all

Actually, we like this review even more than we like GRIMM because how often does a critic heap praise on the writer of a show and condemn the leading man? The opposite is more likely. So congrats to David Greenwalt from those of us who loved not only BUFFY but ANGEL as well…and really, really want to love GRIMM just as much.