5 Silly Rules Of Reality Shows We Swear A Child Created
Reality TV has been creeping around the edges of entertainment since TV's inception. What is a gameshow, talk show, or variety show if not the basics of reality TV, after all? However, sometime in the 90s, that seed of reality TV germinated and what grew out of it was basically an unstoppable turd beast that became bigger and dumber at an exponential rate. And what's worse is that it has now perfected its formula in such a way that every show seems to follow the same set of rules as devised by a first grader. And not the impossibly charming indie film kind of first grader, but the first grader that refuses to delve into anything that may involve depth, thought, or creativity because he's six and loves DuckTales and paste.
The human experience is a nuanced and multifaceted thing. At times, we can be compassionate, contrary, spiteful, loving, introspective, thoughtful, confounding, and inspiring. But fuck all that when we're on TV. If we want to delve into someone, let's ignore their soul and instead learn how their dog has AIDSabetes and needs poop transfusions that can only be secured via winning Chopped. Cue the tears. Yes, salt is necessary for any good dish. Mmm, your anguish is delicious and ratings-invoking. Tell us about the time you skinned your knee in kindergarten, then make a ceviche!
"I lost my bottom half when I fell into a pit of acid. Now try my hastily prepared ice cream."
If you don't watch cooking shows, you may be entirely unaware that they're 50 percent cooking and 50 percent human tragedy. Everyone has a story on cooking shows. Everyone's mom had a leg eaten by a Yeti, or their house was stolen by squatters, or they woke up one day with their face on backwards. You'd think that becoming a cook could only be born from some manner of low-level calamity. Taquitos were invented by a man who was actively in the process of being set on fire by his own estranged father. Oatmeal was actually invented by a Scotsman while he was inside a bear. Food is life is pain.
If you can't drudge up a backstory, then by God, you make that person their own tragedy. Nothing crushes a person more than undercooking pork loin. If you fuck up on a cooking show, you immediately become Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Fuck-My-Life.
Now sure, they kind of shit on that woman, but it was definitely "kind of." It was "Why'd you put macadamia nuts in here?", not "Lean forward while I drive this corkscrew through your temple." But taking criticism with a nod and a degree of self-reflection is for shit that happens in Margaret Atwood novels. We demand emotional breakdowns and half-assed tantrums! If I have to endure watching someone cook eggplant, it better end with them tearing the hair from their scalp and running full bore into traffic while screaming or else what's the point? This same approach is reflected ten fold on America's Got Talent where it seems like your best chance for impressing Howie Mandel is to show up with one hand holding in your exposed entrails after being gored by a bull.
Oh man! Absentee, junkie parents and dead children? Who's ready to be entertained?! Jesus Christ, AGT, stop trying to emotionally ball punch the universe and just show us parrots that can play the piano.
Hey, have you heard of Steve Harvey? Steve Harvey's fame can be summed up thusly.
There's not a lot of foundation to the Steve Harvey empire and when he pops up in the public eye, it's almost never for a reason that actually makes him look good. No, Steve Harvey's forays into our pop-culture consciousness usually come in the form of things like those leaked memos about how he hates staff looking at him, or that time he misread the names of pageant winners, or when he acted like human trash, or even utter bullshit like this:
But the producers of Funderdome didn't give a shit about that when they offered him his 17th TV show. He looks stylish and people know who he is, and that's all that matters. Literally all, because no one wanted Funderdome and unlike other shows which may sound dumb to you, you can objectively prove Funderdome's suckability. Not only is it an inferior ripoff of shows like Shark Tank in which inventors beg for funding, it's so abysmal that hackers leaked it online and no one watched it. Literally, no one chose to download it.
But how? How could anyone not download all of those HILARIOUS reactions?
Naturally the first couple of episodes are bound to get a number of views from grandparents -- episode one of Funderdome had about six million. Just don't expect those numbers to hold up over the weeks since the show is essentially Steve Harvey making fun of people's life works and then telling strangers to vote on what random product they feel deserves validation and which one gets thrown in the trash. Your best bet is to go on the show with a revolutionary new mustache comb.
Funderdome is an answer to a question that not only no one asked, it's one no one had even considered: How can we get more Steve Harvey on TV? Steve Harvey is like a set of keys being proffered to a small monkey. Yes they're shiny and make noise when you jingle them, but what the fuck does a monkey need keys for? What do we need Steve Harvey for? To look faux-baffled when someone on Family Feud answers the question "What's the last thing you stuck your finger in?" with a predictably dirty answer?
The Gong Show, a favorite of yesteryear that featured anyone sober enough to get in the building performing feats of talent ranging from juggling fire to inexplicably motivating you to throw a brick at your TV in anger is making a comeback in 2017. And if ABC has its way, you'll just accept that the host is Tommy Maitland. Who is Mike Myers.
You pull that wool, ABC.
The hole ABC has chosen to squat over for this new show is a strange one and what's burbling inside is equally bizarre. Mike Myers, who you may recall as Shrektin Powers, is Tommy Maitland. He's hosting in character. And of course, everyone knows that but they're still presenting it as if Tommy Maitland is real. And you have to sit and guess if the network is seriously trying to trick you, or if it's all some meta thing where it's supposed to be humor, but the humor isn't funny. And it's not even "not funny" really, it's just devoid of anything worth actually feeling something about. It's the beige of feelings.
Some people, if internet forums and Twitter responses are to be believed, are genuinely unsure if Mike Myers is the host. And maybe that's what ABC is going for. Maybe Myers is 2017's Blair Witch, forcing people to decry its falsehood on one side of the fence, while a strange contingent of others swallow Tommy Maitland whole hog and maybe share stories about how they heard about him years ago so they know he's legit. I have no idea. All I know is, to me, that's clearly fuckin' Mike Myers doing the same English accent he's done for literally 25 years now and I not only don't know why, I can't even make myself care. I can just look at it and see it's a thing and tell you it's a thing while ABC plays pretend because nothing is more magical than the power of imagination.
Well, imagination and MIKE MYERS IN FUNNY HATS AND SLIGHT MAKEUP. I AM A CHILD AGAIN.
They say routine is important for children because it provides a needed stability to help them learn and understand the world around them. If they wake up at the same time, have dinner at the same time, get creeped out by their uncle's depressing stories at the same time, then life is good. Routine makes things easy and that's why America's Got Talent is in its 324th season. Nothing needs to ever change on this show, or on Chopped, or on any reality competition really.
When all the earth is dust, we will still have Howie Mandel going fucking nuts over some gymnastics.
Even formulaic drama like Law And Order tries to ease a variety of farts under the sheet every so often but the only thing that changes on America's Got Talent is the order in which people make you face palm. Tune in to any given episode in any given year and you're probably going to see a child who sings like an adult, a person who seems too old to be doing something yet excels at it, a couple that is revolutionizing dance, a magician who does something you can't explain and, if it's in the early rounds, a handful of people who have no idea what music sounds like.
Chopped has been on TV since food was created and every episode is literally the same. It's stunning when you think about it. Here are four ingredients even a hobo wouldn't eat together, now cook something while three professional chefs judge you for either making trash edible or somehow failing in that task.
"I made these eggs out of an apple, a bottle of vinegar, some cat hair, and a KFC Double Down."
These shows have grasped the simple premise that every game show grasped years ago: If you like this one thing now, you're going to like it forever. Is Wheel Of Fortune ever going to throw you a curveball? No. You could watch these shows after a bottle of tequila and six licks of an unhappy toad and it wouldn't change a thing. They're as regular as nap time and just as challenging.
The Payless Payoff
Everyone likes getting a reward. If I manage to not hit the seat when I pee, I fully expect a cookie when I'm done. If I make a hilarious tweet, please pay me in boobie photos. So, naturally, if you're in a reality competition of some kind, you get a reward. That makes sense. A reward makes sense. Why don't cooking show contestants acknowledge real rewards? And why do the editors force us to make like we believe their shitty rewards are a real thing?
If I win Chopped, I get $10,000 and that's awesome. However, you'd never see that on Chopped. You'd see a quick cut scene where I say I need the $10,000 to open my own restaurant and then the rest of the show would be devoted to me droning on about how I need the title of Chopped Champion. This is turned up to 11 on Master Chef where every home cook in the world's biggest cooking competition is eager to take home the title of Master Chef. Not to mention the competitors on Iron Chef Gauntlet vying for the title of Iron Chef. For fuck's sake. Here, let me make it easy for everyone reading: I grant you the title of Super Techno Commodore of Fun Time Squat Thrusts.
Take a trophy, everyone. They mean everything and also literally nothing.
Food Network just ran a season of Iron Chef Gauntlet and crowned a new Iron Chef who will now presumably invade people's houses and outcook them during the dinner hour since Iron Chef: America hasn't been a show since 2014, and being acknowledged as an Iron Chef is a lot like being called "Pirate King" or "Pornography Baron." Yes, they're words you can put together but what the hell do they mean in any practical sense? If a chef cooks in a random kitchen with no chairman, are they really iron?
I defy you to find a cooking show that doesn't feature at least one contestant in their private on-camera interview excitedly planning to take home the coveted title of America's Greatest Ham Jockey or whatever goddamn thing, as if literally anyone else on Earth would ever care. If you win Chopped, it means you cooked several baskets of cockamamie ingredients better than three other chefs. If you do anything better than three other people, you don't get a title for it. That's absurd. I can walk to the corner faster than my three elderly neighbors, and I'm not Don Julio de Walksalot as a result. By Food Network logic, I should have been crowned Overlord Wankington about 15 years ago.
Go ahead. Try to usurp my throne, Beatrice. I will speed walk you into a slightly early grave.
The goal of most of these shows is to make you think winning is its own reward, and that it's in some way prestigious and important and not mind-numbingly arbitrary and insignificant. Essentially, it's cool because it tells you it's cool. And since no one can exist in the world of the show who doesn't think it's cool, you have no other alternative but to see that reality and be slightly saddened by it even as all the cool kids form their own super badass food clique. So fetch.
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