Friday, November 30, 2007

Confessions of an Addict

This will be my last post.

Well, for the weekend anyway. In order not to burn myself out and overextend, I'll only be blogging on weekdays for now. I'm sad that The Great Tea Debacle is ending, but I shall keep the friendships I have made and there is still another book to write. And there are other things to occupy my time when I'm not writing.

I have a confession to make. I love TV. Heresy! How can this be? Shouldn't all writers spend every waking moment elevating themselves to a higher state of learning, pursuing art and music and nobler activities? I can't help that. I love TV.

It gets worse. I am addicted to Reality TV. Stop clutching your chest like that and rolling your eyes! It isn't dreck or if it is, I just don't care. I find it fascinating and I'll give you five reasons I find it so compelling.

Reason 1: I'm in love with the creative process. What does that have to do with Reality TV? My favorite shows are things like Project Runway and Top Chef. A group of talented professionals in their field compete. Each week they are given a specific challenge and someone goes home based on their performances. It's like Survivor, but with talent. I'm fascinated by seeing how the designers and chefs approach their craft, how they view themselves, how they interact with others in their field. I love seeing them take a project from mere idea to fruition. Some are all concept, but lack the ability to deliver. Some have mad skillz at executing, but lack an original vision. Then there is the artist who conceives of unique twist and produces something fresh and exciting.

Too bad there will never be a show titled PROJECT TOP WRITER. Writing is the same, but different. No one wants to watch a writer. The drama is all there, but it's internal. Project Runway shows them running with scissors. Top Chef features flames endangering the contestants' eyebrows. Writing…well, it fries your brains, but it isn't terribly exciting to watch. It's a shame, because I'm probably one of five people who would watch a show about writers.

Reason 2: People are more interesting than characters. Reality TV isn't all about backstabbing and sleeping around and stupidity anymore than SFF is about aliens and laser guns. Sure, such things exist and are a staple of the genre, but that isn't what it is about. It is about people and how they relate to one another and cope with different situations. The best show for this is The Amazing Race.

In TAR, teams of two race around the world for one million dollars. They have challenges to meet and must arrive at designated checkpoints. At each leg, the last team to check in is eliminated. The journey is always far more stressful and physical than the teams expect and the glimpses into the relationships captivate me (as does the backdrop of the world). Who knew that the earthy, crunchy granola team would come so unglued at the idea of milking a camel? Who knew that the glam rockers with big hair, pink spandex and full make-up would fall deeply in love with the people of Africa and commit themselves to helping the children there? Fascinating.

Reason 3: I learn stuff. Dirty Jobs isn't just about watching Mike Rowe's hairy chest. Okay, sometimes it is, but it's also a glimpse into how things truly work in the world, jobs I never knew existed. And it sure makes my desk job much more appealing. He shows you what it means to do the sort of work that makes our comfortable lives possible. Love science? Always wondered if your cell phone could really spark and blow up your car at a gas station? Mythbusters is the show for you. Who could watch Les Stroud in Survivorman and not come away with the realization that most of us would be dead the first afternoon? But I'm amazed to watch Stroud survive for seven days and even more impressed that he is his own camera crew.

Did I say five reasons? Sorry. I think we've already established my tendency to lie. But those are three good reasons why I don't consider Reality TV as a sign of the apocalypse. Any other addicts out there willing to confess? (Yes, I'm looking at you, Muse.)


Arachne Jericho said...

I don't have cable, but I get addicted to TV shows from time to time. DVDs are great. Amazon Unbox is greater.

TV's art. 99% of it is crap, like anything else, but the stuff that isn't crap is really, really good.

As my current favorite show's main character says... "Read less, more TV." Heh, I'm kidding but it amuses at the cost of "all TV is evil" propaganda.

Ed Pahule said...

Personally, I rationalize that "reality TV" (read: dreck), is much different from documentary and educational programming like "Dirty Jobs," "Mythbusters," et al.

I can't stand the former, no matter what, and I love the latter.

But I do love television. Probably, too much, but the television I love is 60s programming and renting or buying all those old shows.

And I do believe in Britain they did have something like a Writer's Idol program.

Pete said...

I'm with Ed on this. I dislike the reality TV shows like the Amazing Race, because I get exhausted at seeing rude people behave rudely. Eventually, they change, sure. But it's tiring to watch. For me, anyway. I can see the appeal to other people.

I eat up Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters. I devour Survivorman. I just live for educational programming. I wound up staying up three hours later than I wanted to the other night, watching shows on Pituitary Giants.

I have a weakness, in that my wife has gotten me watching "The Biggest Loser" this year, and I'm enjoying it a great deal. So I'm not exactly spared... :)

Lori said...

Yeah. I'm a Project Runway fan, too. I discovered it during the third season.

Midnight Muse said...

The ONLY reality TV I can stand, and Mary knows this, is Top Chef and Project Runway.

Why? Because I can really see a parallel to writing in those shows. They're different than things like Survivor or Amazing Race - where it's dog eat dog. These two have a cooperative feel, as well as competition. And it's their ART and talent therein that keeps them there ( or gets them booted ) not their phsyical abilities or how well they out b*tch the others.

And Mary, have no fear - take heart - for Castle Debacle is finally HERE!

Mary B said...

It's easy to rationalize away the shows that we like. Saying "I hate reality TV, but of course Biggest Loser and Mythbusters aren't reality TV" is like say "I hate dramas. They're stupid and poorly written, except Law and Order isn't a drama it's a crime show and Cane isn't a drama it's a serial."

We like what we like. I love Amazing Race, but I'd rather have a root canal than be forced to watch Big Brother. I like reality TV--just not all of it.

The ones that squick me are the "dating" type shows where some guy gets to experiment with sticking his tongue down the throat of random desperate women to see if he might actually fall in love with one of them in thirty days. Blech.

Pete said...

I don't "hate" reality TV or want it to go away or anything. They just don't appeal to me. Some of them make me uncomfortable (there was one where people were locked in an underground room of some sort and had to vote each other off for was troubling to watch). There are all sorts of TV shows I don't watch. But others do, and it makes them happy, so that's all right.

That said, I don't think Mythbusters, or Dirty Jobs, et. al. are reality TV shows any more than shows like "How it's made," or the old show "NOVA," or even the old show "Beakman's World," or things. I think there's a difference between educational programming (or hosted programming, really) and reality TV.

On the Road with John Ratzenberger is hosted programming. The Amazing Race is reality TV.

That doesn't belittle either one, though.

Ed Pahule said...

I'm in agreement with Pete. I don't think its rationalizing to say I prefer educational or documentary style shows to shows that have no redeeming social values whatsoever, like all those competitions where it brings the worst out in humankind. Arguing and backstabbing makes me nervous.

Lori said...

I noticed that during the first TGTD, Ed. We never should've pestered you into joining us for that.

Mary B said...

I love competition. It brings out the best in me. But I can see that for others, competition is a form of hell.

Midnight Muse said...

I much prefer comaraderie (hey, I spelled it right this time!) over competition - unless that competition is good natured ribbing between helpful friends - that kind does more good than harm. The gentle teasing and nudgint, urging someone to continue forward.

I prefer my flies with honey, or at least some melted chocolate, vs Drill Sergeant Slapdown.

Mary B said...

I love comraderie, but I love competiton too. I am careful about getting myself involved in any sort of real competition because I am fiercely competitive. I don't lose.

It's what makes me a good litigator. But TGTD is not really about competition for me. It's comraderie.

Pete said...

It's what makes me a good litigator. But TGTD is not really about competition for me. It's comraderie.

That's the right way to go. The competition was there, but it was meant to be superseded all the way by the camaraderie. So I guess that makes you okay. ;)

Lori said...

So, what do you think about Project Slush Pile? If it were, hypothetically speaking, based on a show called Project Runway, do you think you'd find it too competitive or do you think the comaraderie would overcome that for you? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Mary B said...

Is that what Project Slushpile is? I'm still reeling from the idea of Penman Shipwreck.

But like I said, I thrive on competition. It energizes me.

If, hypothetically, Project Slushpile was based on a show like Runway, I would allegedly enjoy it.

Pete said...

Hypothetically, of course!

Ed Pahule said...

Lori, I had fun during TGTD. There were... nevermind. Its water under the bridge. Next time I'll just have to stay out of any discussions about the competition. I intend to try the Penman Shipwreck, but I won't be reading any posts about it. Just in case someone is saying, "I've filled out 50 legal pads today already!"