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.

Thinking Man Reviews: Game of Thrones “Blackwater”

By Anthony Medina

**Be aware this review contains spoilers**

Season 2 Episode 9


“Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them.” – Tyrion Lannister

All season long fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones waited for a big flashy battle to satisfy an ever growing blood lust. Episode 9 entitled “Blackwater” finally delivers. But can a TV show budget really do justice to an epic battle? Can it meet our high and often unreasonable expectations?

Apparently the answer is an epic and wild fire fueled YES! This episode was an instant classic and delivered on just about every level. The scenery was beautiful, the effects were flawless, the characters were both depressing and inspirational, and most importantly the dialogue was immensely clever and memorable.

The Rundown:

We open on the naval fleet of Stannis Baratheon (Stephan Dillane) as they make their way across Blackwater Bay. In King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) makes the necessary preparations for the defense of the city. It’s clear however, that they will be vastly outnumbered and are likely to lose. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who will spend the majority of this episode drunk and bitter, makes her own preparations securing a vile of poison to ensure she is not taken alive. Lastly, we see Sansa Stark (Sophia Turner) who throws a few veiled insults at King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and goes to stay with the other high born ladies during the battle.

As the ships approach the two sides play music at each other (a great little scene) and Tyrion launches his first assault. Wildfire. The sea lights up with an enormous explosion of magical green fire. However, this only takes out the first wave and soon Stannis himself is leading the charge. What follows is a truly epic battle with all the blood and gore you could possibly want. Eventually, the Lannister forces are driven back and King Joffrey (the little bastard) runs away to his Keep. It’s now up to Tyrion to lead the remaining soldiers in a final stand against the invaders.

They charge out in full force but are unable to stop the horde of enemy soldiers. In the fighting Tyrion is injured (by one of his own men) and collapses to the ground. Just when it seems like all hope is lost. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) rides in with House Tyrell at his side. They beat back the invading forces and Stannis is dragged away from the battle still screaming at his troops to stand and fight. Lannister’s win.


This episode was AWESOME. But it’s not just the fight scenes that were amazing. Inside the castle, the increasingly drunk Cersei Lannister reveals quite a bit in her conversations with Sansa Stark. Cersei seems to reach out to Sansa but can’t help showing her bitterness and resentment. As much as people will talk about Tyrion in this episode, Cersei will not be far behind.

It’s important to note that “Blackwater” was written by George R. R. Martin, the genius author of the Ice and Fire novels which spawned this televised masterpiece. And anyone familiar with his work can see the clear Martinesque style wit present in the dialogue making the conversations and speeches even more memorable then all the flashy special effects.

I couldn’t possibly say enough good things about this episode and it instantly jumped up to be my personal favorite of the entire series. And if somehow you managed to not like this episode, then clearly you’re worse then Hitler, there I said it.

Thinking Man Rating: 10/10

For Comic Book Junkies Only

A new book tries its best to ‘splain us the biggest mystery man in the Marvel Universe: The Incredible, Elusive Steve Ditko. And we’re definitely buying it to see if this terrific collection of writers succeeds at its dangerous mission

Steve Ditko – Creativity Just Beyond Reality – by Mike Gold

The Creativity of Steve Ditko  • Craig Yoe • With essays by Mykal Banta, Mike Gold, Jack C. Harris, Paul Levitz, and Amber Stanton • IDW/Yoe Books • $39.99 retail

It’s only fitting that I start a review of a book about Steve Ditko by raising an ethical question. Is it proper for a critic to review a book in which he has an essay, no matter how brilliant, poignant and vitalthat essay might be?

I don’t care. The latest tome from YoeBooksThe Creativity of Steve Ditko is so magnificent such petty concerns such as objectivity do not matter. Anything I can do to help direct the masses towards this effort is in service to a greater cause and, besides, I don’t get royalties.

There have been a number of books about Ditko, one of America’s most important comics creators who is as reclusive as he is gifted. In fact, this one is a sequel to Yoe’s The Art of Ditko, which I haven’t read – not because I’m not in it, but because I’m a cheap bastard. Creativity runs over 200 over-sized pages and weighs over three and one-half pounds, supporting my argument for electronic publishing as I suspect the majority of its audience consists of aging baby boomers who can only keep the book on our laps for a short period before reaching for Depends. I’m hard-pressed to suggest what Yoe could have cut.

Read it all

PUNCHING THE CLOWN is a Catchy Title, Don’tcha Think?

…So catchy, in fact, that co-writer-director Gregori Viens and co-writer-star Henry Phillips of the Slamdance Audience-Award winning feature film of the same name, are turning it into a Showtime series, with Chuck Martin of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT joining the writing mix.

If the series bears any resemblance to the film as described on IMDB, viewers like us – you know, the True Believers in Showbiz – are going to have something solid to watch:

Winner of the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival, this uproarious and smart new comedy tells the story of Henry Phillips, a hapless modern day troubadour who grinds his way through the heartland, living out of his car and singing his twisted satirical songs to anyone who will listen. After a booking mishap involving a Christian fundraiser, he decides he’s hit rock bottom. Seeking to shake things up, he moves to L.A. where his luck changes overnight. Thanks less to his inept manager than to a wild case of mistaken identity, he falls backwards into a string of packed gigs, a record deal and even the promise of love. But he who lives by the whimsy of show business dies by it, and reality hits him like a fist in the face: an innocent miscommunication over a bagel brands him a neo-Nazi in the world of tabloid journalism. Luckily, somewhere between rock bottom and nowhere lies the perfect terrain for his dark and hilarious songs.

ABC Buys Sitcom Set in the ’50s From 2 Writers Who Were Born in 1980

…So that’s perfect network-think, hands down.


We, however, have to admit that we’re rooting for this one to work. It’s called THE HOUSEWIVES and is about three housewives in 1954, when our blessed mum was, in fact exactly one year old. (What does that have to do with anything? Just trying to show that we have some link to the time period, that’s all.)

Ms Raphael is reportedly negotiating to play one of the leads, which is awesome because we’ve loved her on Adult Swim’s NTSF:SD:SUV:: for, well, for the last several months at least since we only discovered the show in April of this year. Ms. Wilson, one of the stars of ABC’s HAPPY ENDINGS and an alum of the 2008 and 2009 seasons of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, will be too busy to do anything but write the pilot, we surmise, but we hope she can show her sweet punum in the new show also.

Are these two the new Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French? We hope so because it’s so much more fun looking into the future than reliving the past. ‘Luck, kids!

We, however, have to admit that we’re rooting for this project