Comments: 'Entertainment' Limbo

It's interesting that in the 90s we had shows like the X-Files which suggested, over and over again, that the truth was out there but that we, the public, were being kept in the dark. There was some intense paranoia alive and kicking in America in the early and mid-90s, and it showed up in television shows (along with people who honestly thought Clinton was trying to establish a socialist dictatorship).

It strikes me the mood has mutated somewhat, and the reality shows reflect that. There is still the same sense that the truth is somewhere else, and a hunger to be let in on the secret. The reality shows seem to be catering to that. The more "real" shows (like Cops) are informative and spread American values worldwide (you read the bit about the Norwegian kids being arrested by cops in Norway and asking "Aren't you going to read us our rights?" But there were no rights to be read. Because of Cops, the show, the Norwegian kids are more familiar with the American legal system than Norway's.) The more scripted shows, I'm not sure of the appeal.

As to the dating shows - I don't know. I put it down to pathology. Who the hell enjoys this stuff?

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 6, 2004 06:36 PM

I don't know about the dating stuff, but I do remember hearing a bit of a Harlan Ellison interview in which he revealed that his single favorite TV show was People's Court, because of the fundamental reality and naturalness of it.

I'll admit to watching a little bit of the dating shows, in moments of extreme boredom (they can be educational, for those of us who didn't really 'date' in a conventional sense), and I'm one of the only people I know who watched the original "Who wants to marry a millionaire." We watched it because we knew it was a cultural train wreck, not because we expected to enjoy it, and we were right.

Posted by Jonathan Dresner at August 7, 2004 01:24 AM

Of course, there is the educational value of the realism. Take, for instance, a documentary like Girls Gone Wild - such an authentic portrayal of American female youth allows us to glean important insights about what it's like to be a woman in America today.

(yes, I'm kidding :-; )

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 7, 2004 10:19 AM

My other hobby (besides blogging) is people watching. I think alot of people enjoy people-watching and reality programs are a way to people-watch without leaving the house. It's not any deeper than that, I don't think.

Posted by Amanda at August 9, 2004 08:23 AM

Lawrence - Well, that's sort of the point, isn't it? "Reality" TV has about as much in common with "reality" as Gilligan's Island did with being shipwrecked.

Amanda I'm a people-watcher myself, but I'd rather watch people than stagey melodrama. That's just me, of course. YMMV

Posted by Anne at August 9, 2004 10:59 AM