Reality Is Killing Television   2 comments

I detest reality shows.  I refuse to watch them.   They are awful, they are unwatchable.

Kim Kardashian, Reality TV Star

I do not watch reality shows.

When American Idol occasionally stops being about who can insult the singer most outrageously, I have watched the talent contest that remains.  I’ve stopped that entirely, though, because it’s still just a reality show.  And I’m truly disappointed that anyone cares about bachelors, bachelorettes, or who’s off the island.  I have dismissed this entire class of television — beloved by TV executives because it is cheaper to produce in quantity than traditional dramas and comedies.

My In-Laws have encouraged me to watch Storage Wars.  Velda has a creepy fascination with Hoarders.  Lauren has thankfully outgrown Jersey Shore, but she still flirts with a range of reality shows.  They shame me.

The Ionic columns are all that remain of the original University of Missouri Administration Hall that burned in 1892. These columns have come to symbolize Mizzou. Yes, the Ionic style began in ancient Greece.

I’m classically trained (and no one on earth has ever heard me say THAT!).  But there’s truth, here:  I have a genuine college degree from the University of Missouri in Speech & Dramatic Art.  During that course of study, I studied dramatic theory and Greek theater.  During that wonderful time as a Mizzou Tiger, I studied someone who became a big influence on my sense of the dramatic, Aeschylus.

Bust of Aeschylus from the Capitoline Museums, Rome. He won many first prizes at the city Dionysia.

Aeschylus is known as the “Father of Greek Tragedy,” and lived circa 525-455 BC.  When he began, theater was young — very young.  Dramatic presentations were basically long orations by one actor, with a chorus that delivered some messages in verse and did interpretive dance.  Aeschylus is credited with adding a 2nd actor to his dramas (imagine how startling it would have been to suddenly have two actors that actually spoke to each other in character!).  He also is credited with adding innovative costuming and the thick-soled footwear, called cothurni, that gave his actors a more domineering presence on stage.

Aeschylus won many prizes for his work.  His Orestia is the only trilogy of Greek tragedies that have survived (competitions had three tragedies and a shorter comedic piece called a satyr), and a description of the power of his drama is pretty amazing:

As they walked on stage in the first performance of the Eumenides, the chorus of Furies were so frightening in appearance that they caused young children to faint, patriarchs to urinate, and pregnant women to go into labor.

A mosaic of Orestes, the main character in the Orestia trilogy.

I’m pretty sure that has never happened while watching America’s Next Top Model.

Aeschylus did not accept “theater” as it existed before he became a dramatic poet.  Rather, he re-envisioned his art and decided that a dramatic piece should not just be a poem … it should be a dramatic event with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

And THAT is why I cannot stand reality shows.   I want my entertainment to go somewhere … it must engage my imagination and take me to another place.  That doesn’t mean that Oedipus has to kill Laius and marry Jocasta, but I want more than to simply watch human misery revealed on the small screen.  I don’t care what Howard or Simon might say, I don’t care if Apolo Ohno or Emmitt Smith can dance.

Given this base assumption, it’s all the more amazing that I enjoy — indeed, I endorse! — one show that is entertaining while still being scriptless and undramatic.

I also forgive Ree Drummond for being an alumni of USC. Class of ’91.

The show is fabulous:  Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman.

This show is the only cooking show that we record on “my” DVR; Velda and I watch it together.  I am not ashamed.

This show blends cooking, recipes, family events and Oklahoma ranch life.  I am not ashamed.

The recipe for Buttered Rosemary Rolls typifies Ree’s offerings: basic recipes, easy to make in quantity. Scrumptious.

When Ree’s second cookbook went on sale, I bought it for Velda immediately.  She found a recipe for “Buttered Rosemary Rolls” cooked in a cast iron skillet that was amazing.  They will set you free.  I am not ashamed.

And I am well fed.

It’s a given in our house that Velda watches cooking shows.  She’s a student of her art, and she cooks fabulous meals for our family many nights each week.  But even though she loves the Food Network, that doesn’t mean I have to be there when she watches.  That’s why we have a TV in another room just for her.

I’m really not sure exactly why I enjoy Pioneer Woman so much.  It’s not simply that it highlights a rural lifestyle or traditional ranch cooking … I’ve seen many other shows go there, and I didn’t care.

It’s also not because of my agrarian roots … believe me, the Drummond’s idyllic cattle ranch has little to do with the small, rustic farm that I grew up on.  And since I was the only boy in my high school that wasn’t a member of the FFA, it’s pretty hard to acuse me of wanting to be a farmer.  Or a rancher.

However, Ree mixes a little family fun with her own personal charm, stirs in some great recipes and new takes on old favorites … and the result is a show that both entertains and entices.

If you haven’t ventured onto the Food Network to watch this show, I heartily recommend it.  This slice of Americana will do you some good.

2 responses to “Reality Is Killing Television

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  1. I used to follow Ree’s blog before she was published or had a show. I recommend reading her account of how she met and married her hubby. She is a hoot. And very talented. Her photography is also quite good.

  2. Funny you mention Pioneer Woman. I am 100% not in the show’s demographic and yet I find it unnervingly enticing to watch as well. I think it’s that her life is so hilariously stress free it relaxes me. How many people get to live in a beautiful home and just cook and eat all day? I guess the show avoids some of her actual labor like schooling.

    Reality TV is killing what I think of when I think of television. Evidently much of America disagrees with me, but as an article on cord-cutting at the WSJ (I think) put it, reality tv is too much about too little. Too many shows about chefs, about blue collar jobs, and endless talent shows. Just too much rubbish. We spend most of our time watching fictional series, e.g. Falling Skies, House of Cards. That’s why I’m dropping my satellite subscription shortly 🙂

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