The reality of reality television – stinks.
It might be a whole other kind of planet as to look at it – today’s televised wasteland of the unwholesomely uninspired and the morbidly mediocre, wet all over with the drowned browns and serialized grays of poorly manufactured dramas and regurgitated reality show porn. Never mind truthfulness and forget any commitment to authenticity, the architects of this landscape of lies have honed their skills and refined their product to be consumed readily and as widely as possible. They have tuned heavy-handed with pop-appeal schmaltz and skirted the gag reflex challenges of the purposefully carbon copied. Driven by giddy producers, opportunistic executives and greedy advertisers in an industry that rewards youthful obsessions, the abandoned are processed by the tight-lipped as the indiscriminate viewer spikes their veins by remote control. Mostly it is the sameness that annoys the greatest, sparse concepts wrapped in unoriginal charms by apathetics chasing ratings and pedaling not-so-good-for-you-mindlessness. As cash registers ‘ding’ and media conglomerates posture for dominance, the addictive quality of shoddy forever hedges the bet between dollar-store tawdry and the need for immediate gratification in the short-term memory diseased viewer. When content is chugged like cheap brew and the next generation of t.v. dinner aficionados look for their GMO heartburn solutions in every other ad, celebrity mundanity and pop-appealists encourage idiot box prophets to stock the snack food aisles of our dwindling standards with Kool-Aid and golden sponge cakes oozing with the promise of creamy sustenance. It is this planetary hold on the countless that tells us all that we need to know – there is no reality in reality television.
Perhaps I’m an astronaut in the outer-outer space of contrariness and I haven’t a clue. Maybe, like that extraterrestrial space turd “Gravity” [My review here] I too am “..Shaped by the vacuous possibilities of manufactured tones and rendered landscapes, driven by the spatial consequences of effects-driven storytelling.. into accepting the fleeting superficiality of style over substance…” What if the tugging sensation I feel every time I sit down to write about television is in fact the umbilical cord of my oxygen supply strained by the distance from my mother ship? If the tether that is stretched out into darkness and keeping me from the depths of the universe, where at least ‘you’ can always hear yourself scream, is in fact damaged by the mediocrity of the silver screen, then by all means dried eye and ‘OH 2’ deprived I will certainly succumb to the bone mass wasting and muscle atrophy of unpopular opinions. But first, to others so similarly distressed by the weightlessness of being perpetually incongruent with Hollywood and the industrialized complex of the entertainment bid’ness, let me say that we are united in our quest for more than this. We are united by our dissatisfaction and as such we must answer the burning question that haunts our sensibilities. Today we must ask the question that thrives unchecked in the flickering and stabilized hue of our televised content and finally, empowered however briefly wipe away the stain of drab t.v. for the answer that bares an old familiar acrid sting…
"Why? Because it's television!" - Rory Dean, Above The Line
T.V beams at all hours in kitsch and caboodle-colored nonsense, landfill qualities serving mass appetites with renewable dial-a-flick patterns of situational violence and the overt gratuity of commoditized content. It is online and in line, the all-the-time murderers of free thought and action where the sameness of despicable shows are wedged between the blathering of faces and the advertisements for products and services and things you don’t need, can’t afford or otherwise have no access to. Maybe the most frightening thought is the enlightening that comes from tuning out and turning off, the chance you might rather appreciate autoasphyxia in measured doses of necessary forgetting than more of the same rehashed rehash. Is it colorful odes of heavy-handed, machined aluminum Jello-mold t.v-tray gold for the now generation, same as the good old days, sure it is – but then what does that say about us when we can’t just walk away, turn it off, stop the madness?
“How can you put on a meaningful drama or documentary that is adult, incisive, probing, when every fifteen minutes the proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper?” ~Rod Serling
I suppose the cream always rises, floats on the oily top of mangled wanna-be-interesting, however it taints the less believing in the value of our cherished season finales. Perhaps this means the opposite always sinks, settles as it were, replaced by the next great try to be good or at least not fail to start? But if it does or doesn’t, if it didn’t or did would we still want it the way ‘they’ hope and pray that we do? Would packaging it in cellophane hues of bankable and branded daytime, nighttime is anytime is the right time to make you something you don’t need, don’t really want, and ain’t gonna have any idea what to do with in five years be so bad? Can you imagine the bargain bins at your favorite 5 acre warehouse department store, stuffed with t.v.show series by the stack full in non-biodegradable clamshell and plastic boxes sitting there collecting dust waiting to be replaced by the crap television that came after it, two years ago going on forgettable forever.
“The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.” ~Ray Bradbury, The Golden Apples of the Sun
That’s not to say you are right or wrong for your indulgences or lack thereof. You will surely find something to fill in the silences between the noise in your life. Maybe the gold
nugs are tousled a bit more in the rough of twenty-four-seven programming than previously thought. Maybe the occasional flashback to greater times or jump-forwards to lesser future imaginings is all that we need to keep on this path of hopeful pessimism?Surely we can all agree on the good stuff, like stories and shows that move us and reward us with thoughtful excursions and meaningful departures. But how much of the rest of it do we have to wade through in order to convince us to keep trying? Keep on keeping on, as they say, don’t give up on finding something to watch or ignore, to pass your valuable time because the master of this and the executive of that says so. Who are these architects of our lives, these known and not-so known world-famous everyday Joe and Jane good ol’ crowd pleaser types that are waiting and banking on us to crown their achievements as impersonators of the truth?
It is this planetary hold on the countless that tells us all that we need to know – there is no reality in reality television. We have no electron beam scanners or superheated charged gas combustion chambers that are capable of scanning, back-lighting or flickering even the remotest nuances of the feelings and sensations of the really-real real. But this is less about our trouble discerning fact and fiction, from separating ourselves from the death stare connection with our televisions as it is about our ability to know when something has quite obviously become a toxin, in part or in whole to the fabric of our everyday balances. Maybe what we need is time and distance, a chance to survive a little longer on the swill and the swine at all hours of the day and night before we go cold turkey and never look back. We can just keep on watching or cover our eyes to avoid the hold, transfixed by the fly paper roll colored screen of disquiet and then hurry off to the land of faraway prayers where all this jetsam and flotsam will go, go gently or otherwise necessarily into the ether. If we stand a chance at all it is a beginning place of fascination from seeing too much or not enough of what matters the most, the seconds really that never fully add up but define the immeasurable inconsistencies of a framed and perfected television reality.