Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why We Love Real Reality Shows

By Trish Milburn

If you were standing in a field surrounded by all the shows on television, you could pretty much throw a rock in any direction and hit a reality show. They've boomed in popularity in recent years because they're easier and cheaper to make than scripted television comedies or dramas. And I'll admit I'm a fan of Survivor. It's my mind candy.
But, to me, there's a difference between "reality" TV like The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Celebrity Apprentice and what I refer to as real reality TV, things like Deadliest Catch and Extreme Couponing.

While some "reality" TV is all about the manufactured drama, the drama on Deadliest Catch is all too real. Lives are at stake as the fleets of crab fishermen take to the Bering Sea in the most dangerous job in the world. There's nothing manufactured about giant waves coming over the sides of the boats or engine failures that could lead to the disaster of the boat capsizing.

Extreme Couponing is a show I've gotten into lately. I don't have the time or the dedication to go to the extremes these couponers do, but it has inspired me to coupon on a smaller level and save money I can use on other things. But I'm endlessly fascinated by how these couponers get hundreds of dollars of groceries and other products for next to nothing.

I decided to ask the other Banditas if they have any favorite real reality shows. Here's what they had to say.

Joan Kayse:

One show I like is Must Love Cats. It features a guy who fancies himself a minstrel and who…loves cats. He travels the country to highlight people involved in rescues, unusual kitty things, i.e. a woman in Dallas who invented “Kitty Wigs”. I kid you not, she fashioned different styled little wigs to put on cats and takes their pictures. Evidently, people have gone wild for it.

Another story involved a cat who woke up his owner and alerted him to their neighbor’s house being on fire. A woman who runs a sanctuary that holds 600 cats. Her motto is “They may not find a home, but they’ll have a life.”

It offers me reassurance that despite my propensity for buying my baby cats toys….I’m NOT at crazy cat lady level yet, LOL.

The other one is My Cat from Hell. This is interesting in that a cat behaviorist goes into psycho kitty households and tames the wild beasts…and their owners who are partly to blame. I discovered a slow blink of the eyes reassures your cat that you are not a threat. I tried it with Grayson the Monkey Cat who gave me a “what’s up with that look.” It’s also given me my new idea on how to train them off the counter. We’ll see.

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is the new one I started watching recently. Freaky deaky insights to Irish Travellers lifestyle. Kind of like Jersey Shore meets the Amish type of thing. TLC is a learning channel…but BOY…some of the things you learn!

Nancy Northcott:

I watch Border Wars on NatGeo. I started out watching it as research but then just got interested in the various problems Customs & Border Patrol staffers face. Some of the ways people hide things in vehicles are mind-blowing.

The dh likes American Pickers. I think he fantasizes that they will show up here, clean out our clutter, and finance the boy's college education. No harm in dreaming.

Christine Wells:

I love What Not to Wear, the British version, with Trinny and Susannah. It's not just a makeover show. They really dig into why a woman might let herself go or only dress in power suits at work, and it's a very cathartic process for the women who go on there. I often find myself in tears (yes, I'm a watering pot!) when I see the struggles these women go through. Another favourite is The House of Tiny Tearaways, which is sort of like the Nanny only it's a psychologist who brings three families to live in a house together for a week. All the families have difficult children, but it's often the parents who need to sort out their own issues and it's fascinating for a writer of romance to see the real emotional struggle there to make a relationship work. Plus, I pick up tips on dealing with my boys when they're troublesome! Oh, and of course, The Antiques Roadshow. Every item has a story and that's what I love about it, as well as seeing beautiful things my Regency characters might have owned.

Tawny Weber:

I would have sworn up and down that I didn’t watch reality shows, until I realized that those shows I love on the Food Network are, um, yeah...reality shows. I love the competitions. Cupcake Wars, Iron Chef and Chopped are total faves. Mostly because they are 1-episode competitions and I don’t have to worry that I forget the shows exist when I fall into deadline and miss them for a month or so. But I have gotten sucked in to The Next Food Network Star and The Next Iron Chef.

Suzanne Ferrell:

I have a favorite is One Born Every Minute, which is the Lifetime show based in Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus. They've posted 47 cameras all throughout the L&D unit and it's what "really" happens. Cracks me up!

Then there is the cooking competitions, Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, The Next Foodnetwork Star and Chopped! Uhm, Project Runway and The Next Design Star are pretty good.

And sadly when my insomnia starts in at 1 am, I have to confess I do like one Housewife show...NY. The rest drive me crazy, but I actually like Jill and hate Ramona. (Sigh, they do say confession is good for the soul!). But honestly, for me it's like watching a train wreck. I can't imagine agreeing to meet someone I can't stand for lunch, let alone go on a trip with them! Seriously, people, just walk away and don't have any further contact!

Donna MacMeans:

I’m not a big fan. I’d much rather watch a scripted show (and keep the writers employed). I do watch the auditions for American Idol – not so much the final shows, and I used to watch the auditions for So You Think You Can Dance. I often see parallels in the judges' comments and the responses to the sort of things we see in the writing world. But like I said, I don’t really watch the shows when it comes down to ranking up public votes. My favorites never win...maybe because I never vote (grin).

Jeanne Adams:

My faves are Top Chef, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, and Project Runway. I love that they call out the best in people and challenge them to play full out. The drama comes in when people try to worm out of being responsible for their decisions or their performances. :> Grins. Or when they make the wrong decision and try something that's a HUGE stretch and they don't commit fully and so it fails. Or succeeds brilliantly because they DO stretch.

Okay, dear readers, are you a fan of any of the shows mentioned? Or are there other "real" reality shows you enjoy? Let us know which ones and why.


barb said...

I think he loves the cols weather here LOL

barb said...

Hi Trish

We have different reality shows here although we do get some of yours especially if you have payTV which I don' the moment I like RPA (Royal Prince Alfred Hospital) where you follow patients from brain surgery to cut fingers and also Australia's got don't realise what talented people there are out there

flchen1 said...

Woohoo, Barb! I'm sure the GR would enjoy starring in his own reality TV show!

Our family's reality TV faves are cooking shows (like Top Chef or Iron Chef), Dancing with the Stars (which isn't *really* reality TV either), and The Amazing Race! Woot!

Helen said...

Again Barbara he must be enjoying the cold LOL


As you all know I watch very little TV although I always used to watch Australian Idol before it got canned I loved that show watching new talent get helped along the way.
I have also watched RPA here and there as well and I enjoy that one I have seen some of the Deadliest Catches shows and I agree with you Trish a very good show.
There is also another show I catch bits of here and there called RBT (random breathe Test) yes where they follow the police pulling people over for breathe and drug testing this isn't too bad at time either and we have seen a policeman friend of ours doing his job in our local area not bad

Have Fun

Jane said...

Congrats, Barb.

I've used to watch the British version of What Not to Wear on BBC America. I also like the British version of Antiques Roadshow. I like the Amazing Race and my cousin makes me watch Basketball Wives with him.

marybelle said...

I love SURVIVOR, but that could just be so I can have my Jeff Probst fix.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Next Food Network Star, Iron Chef America, Next Iron Chef and Chopped will keep me in one place glued to the set and that is saying something. Up until then I hadn't watched TV for something like 8 years.

Dtchycat said...

I used to be a complete Survivor fan, but lately with all the returning past contestants, it lost its charm for me. I love Project Runway.

Maria said...

I watch food network but don't have a schedule of things I watch regularly - just whatever's on when I turn on the tv - though I will occasionally watch the Cupcake Wars. I also like to watch Clean House and will occasionally watch a Hoarders episode. I do mostly watch scripted tv.

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Trish & all your collaborators on today's post! I do love Top Chef & Project Runway but I only watch TV when I'm on the treadmill in the morning, so often I'm several seasons behind.

What does it for me is watching really talented people working under time & material constraints. That's when the talent shines through, I think. Nobody really wants to wear a dress made out of packing materials, or eat a meal made out of grass clippings (or whatever) but it's fascinating to see what people come up with when challenged.

Plus I have to kill 38 minutes of running so I'll watch anything. :-)

Anna Sugden said...

I'm not a bit TV watcher at the best of times and I'm not a huge fan of all these fly on the wall reality shows or most of the competitions. I used to love Top Chef, Project Runway, Step Up and Dance - which were all about people with skills competing to be the best. The only thing I hate about all those shows is the bitchiness.

I also love all the Food Network shows like Iron Chef, Ace of Cakes, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives etc.

The one show I used to be addicted to was Trick my Truck - with the original guys from the Chrome Shop Mafia. Now the weird thing is I'm not a car/truck person at all. But I caught one episode of this and was hooked.

I loved how the guys would take on a truck and turn it into something that honoured the trucker. The crew were great fun to watch from the opening 'boys game' through to the big reveal. The skill they have is unbelievable - from Ryno's amazing spray paint skills to the Pickett brothers way with metal.

Unfortunately, CMT changed the format, so most of the original crew left. I stopped watching, but I have all the episodes of the first three series on ipod *g*.

p226 said...

Not a reality show, per se. But Restrepo.

jo robertson said...

Great topic, Trish! Like Donna, I love American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. I don't really consider these reality shows (though they ARE), but more competition in music and dance. I find the talent of these "amateur" performers amazing!

jo robertson said...

Oh, and I don't watch Big Brother or Housewives or any of those somewhat melodramatic reality shows. I figure I have enough drama in my real life. Why borrow someone else's? LOL.

Danielle Gorman said...

I love watching Deadliest Catch. I cried like a baby last year when Capt. Phil died.

I also like watching Top Chef, Teen Mom(I don't know why) and So You Think You Can Dance.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Barb, afraid I couldn't watch the hospital one. I'm squiggy with that kind of stuff. But some of the talent shows are amazing. I mean, who expected Susan Boyle to sing like she does?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Fedora, it seems the cooking shows are very popular. I guess it says something about me that I don't watch them. In fact, when I wanted to watch Challenge this past Sunday because they were doing romance novel cover cakes and RWA President Dorien Kelly was one of the judges, I had to figure out what channel Food Network was on. :)

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Helen, for some reason I had to laugh at a show about random breath testing. We have a fair amount of cop shows here too -- COPS, Police Women of Broward County, etc. Let me just say, what few times I've seen any part of COPS, the people they're arrested aren't exactly the brightest bulbs in the pack.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Jane, I've never seen the British version of What Not to Wear. How does it differ from the American version?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

LOL, Marybelle, on your Jeff Probst love. :) I follow him on Twitter. He tweets live during the shows.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Dianna, people keep mentioning Chopped. I know it's a cooking show, but what's it about?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Dtchycat, I've enjoyed Project Runway when I've managed to see it. But it's almost always an accident when I see it.

Another show I sometimes see, and which the hubby will watch too, is America's Best Dance Crew. Some of those groups are amazing.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Maria, Cupcake Wars sounds...tasty. :)

I can't watch Hoarders. Just too uncomfortable.

However, I will occasionally watch Storage Wars. :)

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Susan, it is totally amazing what the contestants on these shows can do under pressure. I'm amazed by some of the designs that come out of Project Runway.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Anna, I've never seen Trick My Truck, but I'm sure it was popular here in the South.

It's amazing how we can get sucked into one of these shows that we never thought we would. Hubby sometimes watches a show called Swamp People, and I sat down one night to watch a little with him. Several episodes later, I dragged myself off the couch. It's about Cajuns in Louisiana who hunt alligators along the Atchafalaya River.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

p226, that's the documentary that Sebastian Junger did, right? I want to see that.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Jo, I watched a couple of seasons of American Idol and then just couldn't anymore. There was just soooo much of it. They dragged it out until it was agonizing. And then I so often disagreed with the voting that it just wasn't fun for me anymore.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Danielle, I cried with Phil died too. So sad. And I keep hoping that the boys will pull it together and the Cornelia Marie will have success again.

Carol A. Strickland said...

Iron Chef: America for me. Someday I will pick up a kitchen utensil and use it to cook something. Maybe. Until then I am in awe about odd food and people who can prepare it 15 ways AND have folks ooh and ahh over the taste!

Others: Sell This House, Enough Already!, Curb Appeal (any), any Candice Olsen show, Yard Crashers... Yeah, I have to clean/declutter and spruce up my house & yard.

And Judge Judy and People's Court just to make me feel good about myself, that I'm not like THOSE awful/stupid people. Is that petty?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Carol, while I'm not lured in by The Food Network, I can be easily lured in by HGTV if I happen to pause on it for too long.

Oh, man, I really can't stand those court shows. I remember when The People's Court was the only one on, and now there seems to be dozens of them.

Suzanne Ferrell said... one has mentioned Hoarders or Hoarders:Buried alive.

Come on...tell me someone besides me watches these? (Of course I watch the weirdest things in the middle of the night!)

I always feel motivated to clean out another drawer, closet or corner of my house after watching these poor people, just to be sure I'm not having hoarding tendencies!!

In fact, my TBR pile has been dwindling steadily that past few months to make space for books from conference, but also to show myself..."See, I'm not a book hoarder!"

Anna Campbell said...

Barb, he must love YOU!!!!

Trish, what a fun piece. I'm with Christine on What Not to Wear (the original Trinny and Susannah version) and the Antiques Roadshow. Much as I enjoy the American version, I must say my favorite remains the BBC original. And I adore the old houses and buildings they go to as their venues. There's always quite a lot of historical info in an AR so I can pretend I'm researching! Actually I also love UK property programs - you know, buying a cottage in Devon or Cornwall or doing up a stylish flat in London. Makes me dream that maybe one day that might be me!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Suz, sorry, I just can't do Hoarders. Though I guess being inspired to de-clutter is a good benefit of watching.

Anna, the UK property shows sound interesting. There's just something really cool and romantic about thinking of an English cottage.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...
Dianna, people keep mentioning Chopped. I know it's a cooking show, but what's it about?

It is kind of cool, they give 4 chefs mystery baskets to cook with, off the wall ingredients, some things I never even heard of and they are supposed to make first an appetizer, then one gets chopped, then another mystery basket and the 3 remaining make an entree, one gets chopped and then the last two and another mystery basket to make desert. The winner gets 10,000.00 some of the ingredients have been squid, eel, different fruits that I have never heard of, and nothing in that basket goes together.

Louisa Cornell said...

The Adventures of the Golden Rooster in the Land of Oz !! Might end up being WAY too much reality!

Back when I had television I LOVED The Amazing Race. I loved the travel aspect and seeing how different Americans dealt with foreign cultures, locales, people and food. Someone said it no longer features average 'joes and janes,' but celebrities now. If it does I wouldn't care to watch it. What passes for celebrity these days is ludicrous, for the most part, in my eyes.

There was a show America's Top Dog that I really enjoyed. Owners with dogs with training issues competed and over several weeks a dog was eliminated each week until the final dog was crowned as most improved. It was a great show.

I guess I like seeing the underdog (literally and figuratively) win out in the end.

Pissenlit said...

I looooove Deadliest Catch though I'm not quite sure why I'm so crazy about it. I occasionally catch a few eps of MasterChef here and there. Oh and there was one called Work of Art: The Next Great Artist which I couldn't get enough of 'cause it made me nostalgic. It was somewhat amusing because for every contestant, I had someone in my classes that were just like them. The second season is supposed to start up sometime later this year, I think.

Beth Andrews said...

I like the US version of What Not To Wear, Top Chef and my husband and son and I liked Man Vs Wild. I prefer scripted shows but haven't been watching much of anything lately. I need to update my Netflix queue and get caught up :-)

Christie Kelley said...

Love the post, Trish. My favorite reality shows are:

American Idol (love the new judges)
Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters International
Ace of Cakes (Charm City, hon)
And this year, I started watching The Voice.

Na said...

Reality shows have come a long way since Survivor. I've learned to take "reality" with a grain of salt, what with editing, manipulation etc. I still enjoy them do! The idea of them...normal people putting themselves out there for us.

I enjoy:
The Amazing Race
Wipeout (great for laughs)!!

LilMissMolly said...

I'm not a fan of any of these show, although my daughters really enjoy What Not to Wear and the Cake Boss.