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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Reality TV-Stephen King Saw It All Coming

The Kardashians, The Goeslings, Pickers, Hoarders, Pawn Stars, Snooki, Biggest Loser, Bachelorettes, Redneck Weddings - WHERE WILL THE INSANITY END?  Someone once said "You can't go wrong aiming for the lowest common denominator".  All you have to do is pick any channel on the TV and there you are.

Maybe I'm weird but when I watch TV I like to be entertained.  Reality TV doesn't really do much for me.  I tried watching Trauma, Life and Death in the ER but it was too much like my job.  I can't watch The Biggest Loser.  I felt humiliated for the contestants.  The criteria for elimination based on pounds lost is really unfair.  Sometimes you work like hell, stick to your diet and your body doesn't want to give anything away that week.  I did follow America's Got Talent and American Idol for a while.  At least the contestants are trying to entertain an audience.  Dancing With the Stars is ok.  Again, the contestants are performing to the crowd as well as the judges.

I really prefer plot driven shows.  Its much more enjoyable to take a little trip into a fictional world or historical era than it is to see the pale underbelly of society's misfits (either celebrity or not).  I especially despise pseudo-celebrities who have no discernible talent for anything except being born to someone else who is wealthy or talented.

There are a lot of courtroom shows where people sue their former tenants, bff's or family members for unrepaid loans, damages or back rent.  The most entertaining part of these shows is when one of the litigants is so sublimely stupid the judge has to point it out for him/her.

A little more worthwhile are shows with home repair or cooking which are, at least, semi-educational.  Although, why I would want to cook something exotic in a limited amount of time is not abundantly clear.  I wish I could have seen Holmes on Homes before I hired the Moron Brothers (that's only an alias) Construction Company to do renovations on my house.  Mike uncovers improperly executed building and repair jobs and makes them right.  The down sides of this show is that nobody ever talks about how much it costs to undo the damage or who pays for the repairs. Nor do they give tips on tracking down the slimeballs that trashed your home. .

Stephen King wrote a novel The Long Walk back while he was in college around 1967. Published in 1979, originally under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, it chronicles a future world game show/sporting event where 100 contestants walk against each other for a prize of  anything they want for the rest of their lives.  There is no second prize.  Only the winner survives this race.  The others are executed by rifle shots if they falter or drop out. The spectators and home viewers cheer, gawk and bet on the outcome.  Like Nascar fans hoping to see a crash, the Long Walk offers the possibility of someone earning their "ticket" (death shot) while they watch.  Extreme?  Yes.  Possible?  Maybe someday.  I think our voyeurism and. urges for sensationalism will ultimately lead to something of this caliber.  We like being horrified.  When The Long Walk was written Let's Make a Deal, Password, The Match Game and The Dating Game were typical shows.  Today we are much closer to King's future world than I expected.

Jim Carrey's movie, The Truman Show, is another look at extreme reality TV.  Poor Truman is a manufactured child in a manufactured world with spycams watching every facet of his life.  He does not figure out till he is well into adulthood that everything about his existence is fake.  At the end of the movie he emerges from his bubble into the outside.  I almost had the urge for a sequel here to find out how Truman managed to adjust to the "real world" after leaving his "reality world".

I've toyed with the idea of my own reality show.  I'd call it something like "Four Generation House".  The "Baby Boomers", now also referred to as the "Sandwich Generation", have elderly parents and returning children (with THEIR children) living with them.  This is the case in my house. So much for an empty nest.  I don't know if there is a market for a show featuring seven people coexisting in an 85 year-old, 1500 square foot house with plumbing issues. Actually I'm not sure we could fit a TV crew in anywhere and still act like we don't know they're there.  Would you be interested in watching our arguments about who is cooking tonight or who left the mess in the bathroom?  What about the disaster of the back yard shed when the tree limb fell on it? Then there are the dysfunctional neighbors who feed and attract wildlife such as deer, groundhogs and skunks.  Sound fascinating?  Let me know if you're interested in sponsoring this exciting concept for a show.

Love to all,
Marlena of Mohegan

UPDATE 4/14/2012

When I wrote the above post I had forgotten that Stephen King had another published look at the future and  the state of reality TV.  "The Running Man", also initially published under under his pseudonym,  takes place in a dismal 21st century world where the gap between the classes has become a huge abyss.  "Freevee" is the airwaves anesthetic meant to entertain the poor and keep them content in their squalor.  Like "The Long Walk" contestants risk death to compete for wealth.  The GA, or games authority, rewards viewers for their participation leading to the demise of the contestants.  The scariest part of this book is the ending which is an eerie predilection of the events of September 11, 2001.

I find it interesting to read stories of the future and live long enough to see what actually comes to pass.  In Stephen King's 21st century we still drive mostly American cars (including Studebakers) and  may smoke on airliners.  Our inner cities have become completely lawless and OSHA doesn't seem to be doing anything for factory workers.  Air pollution has become so toxic that personal nose filters are the only hope of avoiding lung cancer.

  I wanted to read 1984 before the year got here and thankfully that world has not come to pass.  However, webcams are more and more prevalent these days so Big Brother is able to keep an eye on us in public.
In the movie "Back to the Future II" the characters go forward to 2015, a mere three years away.  I don't think we'll have flying cars by then.  Jaws XV was currently showing and home-prepared fast food was done by rehydration.  I'd like to be able to "beam up" like on Star Trek. I'd also like some of the home appliances from The Jetsons.

I'm veering off the subject of reality TV here.  I hope it never gets to be as bad as Stephen King imagined.  Viewers please find something else to do!

Love to all,
Marlena of Mohegan.


  1. Very well, put.

    I loved King's "The Long Walk." I'd be interested to know if Suzanne Collins (author of "The Hunger Games") ever read it.

    1. I had forgotten that "The Running Man", also published under his pseudonym, was also about a future with extreme TV game shows. I have to read it again now and might have to more to say on the subject.

      Thanks again for reading me.