The continuing downfall of network television

When a person sits down to watch TV these days, it’s almost scary to consider what they might find. So-called ‘reality’ shows are of course all the rage, whether it’s about singles humiliating themselves on shows like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette or women screaming at each other like the Real Housewives of New York or the others in that same series.

For one thing, how real can these shows be? The minute a camera is in the room, things cease to be real. I just can’t believe there is a split second these people forget they are on camera, so what we see is over-the-top theatrics or simply bad acting. Moments of ‘realism’ might be woven in here and there, but to think you are watching a normal ‘day in the life’ of some celebrity is sheer folly.

Examples abound. The Kardashians have blessed us with more over-exposure in Kim and Courtenay Take New York. Great. From what I’ve heard, viewers get to watch Kim and her new husband argue frequently as they speed towards one of the shortest marriages ever – a mere 72 days.

Even TV networks that at one time would have avoided this kind of crass entertainment have now jumped in enthusiastically. Once a upon a time, there was a channel on TV that presented all kinds of interesting, insightful programs. It was called The Learning Channel – better known as TLC.

But something happened over the years, with the onslaught of other ‘reality’ type programs vying aggressively for viewer attention. Ratings, which of course were always important, began to pretty much trump anything else – like quality and substance.

Today, the litany of shows that appear on TLC are a far cry from what the station used to feature. We have the deplorable Toddlers & Tiaras – a gaudy, grotesque exploration of beauty pageants for children. That’s something that, in my opinion, shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Young girls strut across stages, plastered in make-up with their folks in the audience goading them on to crank up the attitude. It’s repulsive and just plain sad. One has to wonder about how some of these children will turn out as they mature. Forcing a child to act in such a manner can’t help but have consequences.

And what exactly are audiences learning I wonder?

Then there is Brides of Beverly Hills. And Long Island Medium, where a woman talks about how she senses spirits swirling around her in the most ordinary of circumstances. Her family looks on and giggles about her ‘gift’. Sounds plain creepy and strange to me. And thus the trend continues – what wouldn’t have seen the light of day on TV some years ago is now simply normal, everyday programming.

Again, one has to wonder where the term learning applies? TLC has apparently, in some respects, bought into the thinking that the bizarre and titillating is the reasonable place to go.

And to top it off, we have the newly introduced TLC series called The Virgin Diaries. Just what we all really needed. Listening to people discuss their virginity. Frankly, is this really something we need to know about? The introduction for the first episode shows a couple who didn’t kiss until their wedding day. That’s fine, but then we see them at the wedding and that first kiss is a doozy.

Yikes. The guy pretty much swallowed his new bride.

Ultimately, all of this points to a trend that seems to be growing in popularity in society. Reality shows, fueled by their wild popularity, present distorted views of life. And more troubling, why the frenzy of interest in people’s personal lives? It’s astounding what people will offer up for public consumption. I can’t help but think of Kate Gosselin, in the last days of her fading television appearances. Clearly she was desperate for attention, as her TV special crowed about a ‘can’t-miss’ episode where she has a big blow-out with her assistant. Kate ramped it up for the cameras, complete with tears and declaring angrily ‘This is so not over’.

Well, it is over for Kate – as far as TV is concerned. Thankfully. And perhaps one day society’s tastes will change and the desire to peer into other’s lives and misadventures will fade out too.