Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Don't cry!

I don’t watch many reality shows. Very few. Almost none. I used to watch more scouring for ridiculous ones to review and make fun of.  Sadly, there are less of those. Where are the new PREGNANT IN HEELS or INSTANT BEAUTY PAGEANTS?

One of the shows I do watch is SHARK TANK. I like it, and my friend Harry’s wife works on it. But one thing drives me crazy.

Is it possible to do a reality show without having someone cry? It’s gotten beyond ridiculous. In the early days of television there was a game show called QUEEN FOR A DAY. Women would compete for the saddest sob stories. It was one icky tear-jerker after another. Finally, a winner was crowned “Queen for a Day.” Destitute housewives were given washer-dryers and blenders.

Those contestants were amateurs compared to today. People have complete breakdowns over cake decorating. Men wail like little girls if they’re not selected for dates.

Clearly, most or all of it is for show. America is a sucker for weep porn. The problem, of course, is that reality has become the “Genre that Cried Wolf.” There’s so much emotion that none of it lands. And the result is that these shows all seem manipulative, bogus, and quite frankly insulting.

I now hate ANYONE who cries on a reality show. More than that I fast-forward through them. So if you go on one of these programs and want a total stranger to hate you just start weeping on national television.

Come on, you people. Man up. It’s just a blender. A fucking blender.


25 comments :

Ralph C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat Reeder said...

I don't watch reality shows, but I have been known to call up old episodes of "Queen for a Day" on YouTube (yes, they're actually there.) What I love about that show is that women actually competed to be chosen as the most pitiable, pathetic person on Earth. Then after the "winner" was chosen, I always wondered what happened to the other contenders?

"Mrs. Ralph Kozlowski of Brooklyn, New York, YOU are QUEEN for a DAY! And you other two get to RETURN to your wretched lives of SQUALOR and MISERY!"

Mark said...

My beef with reality TV is I think related to yours. Reality TV was supposed to save us from the two big sins of scripted TV -- bad writing and bad acting. And yet reality TV turns out to be full of both. It turns out that bad dialogue delivered poorly by professional actors is still better than bad writing rendered by some random employee of a pawn shop / tattoo parlor / auto shop.

kent said...

The only reality shows I watch are the Dodgers and the Lakers and the latter barely qualifies.

Mike Doran said...

How I know that Ken - and most of the rest of you - are younger than I am:

Because I remember what one TV historian called "the great maudlin atrocity of '50s television" - Strike It Rich.

This show, which predates Queen For A Day by at least five years (look it up), didn't limit itself to women: anyone whom Life had smote down with calamitous misfortune could come to New York and tell their tale of woe to a national audience - either on the five-day-a-week daytime show, or the once-weekly prime-time show (and for a while in the early '50s, Strike It Rich was simulcast on network radio).

The "contestant" would come on stage, to be presented with a huge box of Fab detergent, which he/she had to hold up while telling the USA about the Tragic Circumstances.
Then there would follow the "quiz" segment: the contestant would be asked a series of questions, along the lines of difficulty of "What color is an orange?"
The contestant could only win up to about $200-$500 (there was a legal limit to what could be offered at the time), which most of the time wasn't nearly enough to deal with the Calamity.
- And that brings us to The Heart Line.
Anyone from anywhere in the country (or at least that part of the country that was getting the live broadcast) could call in to Strike It Rich and offer goods and/or services to make up the shortfall, so Uncle Goopy could get his iron lung after all.
... And the contestant would stand there in front of the whole country, weeping copiously while holding on to that humungous box of Fab (hey, sponsorship is sponsorship ...).

At one point, Strike It Rich was investigated by the New York City government, for running an unlicensed welfare agency: So many people were coming to New York to try to get on the show that NYC's real agencies were getting the overflow.
But that, of course, was Long Long Ago - we've all matured in our outlooks in the generations since, haven't we?

... haven't we? ...

Douglas Trapasso said...

Coming soon . . . "Kickstarter: The Series"

(Honestly, I'm a little surprised it hasn't happened yet).

Andy Rose said...

Yesterday, I was discussing with a colleague the flip side of this trope with reality shows: The ones where whatever task the contestants are doing is The Most Important Thing in the World to them. We are treated to multiple talking head interviews where they will explain at length how This is Incredibly Significant to Their Sense of Self-Worth and Nothing Will Get In Their Way in Trying to Prove They are the Best. That kind of thing is understandable on one of these singing shows where a person's dream career is in the balance. But on a show about people who put fancy Christmas decorations on their house, it's just annoying.

Dr Loser said...

The basic problem I have with Reality TV Shows is that they do not represent Reality.

Perhaps Reality is too difficult a concept for network TV. Perhaps I'm asking for too much honesty up front.

But hey, who wouldn't watch something called "Crass Exploitative Totally Artificial TV, and after the break ... Cute Pets?"

A song, a dance, some spritzer down the pants ... I think the modern age needs this.

Buttermilk Sky said...

QUEEN FOR A DAY haunted my childhood. They actually sat the poor woman on a throne, with a tatty rhinestone tiara and fake-ermine-trimmed cape. And a bouquet of red roses.

Talent contests date back to radio (Major Bowes). But I don't remember anybody projecting that win-or-die attitude they have today. Also, all the female singers weren't trying to sound like Whitney Houston imitating Aretha Franklin.

Peter said...

To tie this in with yesterday's post:

I find the term "man up" extremely patriarchal and cis gendered! This should be a safe space that is inclusive and gender neutral! You should be banned from speaking at any college because of this hate crime!

Mike Bloodworth said...

I've always envied those that could cry on cue. Its one of the acting skills I have yet to master. I've tried all the tricks; pulling a hair out of my nose, thinking of a sad song, remembering that c#$@ in high school that broke my heart. Nothing works. Maybe I should start watching these shows to learn their secrets. Then, maybe, I could get some of those heavy dramatic parts. "This is Us" here I come.

YEKIMI said...

I think you're seeing the tears because these shows are aiming for the female demographics most of the time. My mom watches these crappy reality shows all the time. I froth at the mouth and tell her they're NOT reality unless they also show them farting, swigging milk out of the carton, scratching their balls or boobs, sitting at the kitchen table with their bathrobe hanging open showing use their pee stained underwear eating cornflakes out of a filthy bowl that hasn't been washed since the Great Depression and nursing a hangover while ignoring the crying baby, etc. Also, not everyone in America is a beautiful babe with boobs so huge they each have their own zip code or guys that have 16-pack abs. If they do have a non-good looking chubby guy or gal you can almost always bet they're just there for comic relief or to be made fun of or the shoe hosts are there to improve their life/self-esteem/wardrobe.

Shark Tank was the latest to have a boo-hooing person on because he was trying to get them to invest in his product in honor of his dearly departed dad who didn't get to see him try and become successful.....gulping noises, tears glistening in his eyes, the catch in his breath as he tried to explain that his father died from some rare Monogolian Turd Virus that turned his bowels to stone or some such nonsense.....turned the damn show off after that.

VP81955 said...

We need the SoCal Helpful Honda Dealers (whose radio commercials tell of various things it does to aid folks in need -- probably both a charitable tax deduction and good PR for the company) to go national.

MikeN said...

The picture shown here was of a guy selling the Tree TeePee, which reduces water usage in irrigation by a factor of 30. The guy was crying in response to a question about why not charge more, and he said farmers are hurting and this is his passion. One of the most revolutionary items in agriculture, subject of jokes on a Hollywood blog.

Tom Galloway said...

Still sort of out there in game show form. The episode of NBC's The Wall that I watched (I'm a trivia addict, so had to check it out, but the questions weren't difficult or interesting) seemed to have its primary criteria of picking contestants that of how life changing winning money would be. They weren't quite at the level of trawling homeless shelters for contestants, but it was pretty clear you needed an inspiring sob story to get on the show.

PJ said...

There's a show called Chopped on the Food Network that I used to like until they started with the crying. Please don't eliminate me judges, I'm cooking for my (insert name of deceased relative) who died/is dying of (disease). Every show had rivers of tears running down onto the food. I at least respected the people who said, "It would be nice to win 10,000, pay off some bills."

MikeN said...

You will never convince me that America's Funniest Home Videos aren't scripted by the show's producers.

Cap'n Bob said...

I like Shark Tank, too, but I don't recall it being that much of a crying game. Sure, some people do it, but not a lot.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Julia Duffy had much to say about reality television--none of it favorable--in a good 2010 interview with a Florida public television host named Jeff Weeks.

The half-hour segment is on YouTube.

Pat Reeder said...

To Buttermilk Sky: Loved your description of all the women on singing contest shows. Except at this late date, it's more like they're imitating Ariana Grande imitating Christina Aguilera imitating Mariah Carey imitating Whitney Houston imitating Aretha Franklin. This is why my wife and I stopped watching "American Idol." The judges call it "runs" (it gives me the runs) or "making the song your own." I call it "ululating." I always picture them pinning the songwriter like a wrestler and strangling him while banging his head on the floor. My wife is a retro style jazz singer who grew up listening to people like Rosemary Clooney and Keely Smith. She sings in the straight tone style, and critics have raved that her voice is "impossibly old fashioned." That's just because she's actually singing -- you know, conveying the meaning and emotion of the lyric while hitting and holding musical notes -- not just doing show-offy vocal exercises.

Thanks for letting me get my pet peeve off my chest. Now, I'm off to search YouTube for clips of "Strike It Rich!"

VP81955 said...

To Pat Reeder: Amen. What hath melisma wrought?

Unknown said...

the only reality TV show I watched was the X-Files. Moulder never cried.
The Truth
Is out There

Earl Boebert said...

Sorry, Ken, your post was spot on but your choice of pictures was (I'm sure by accident) unfortunate. It wasn't until MikeN's comment triggered my memory that I recalled seeing that episode of Shark Tank. I too am convinced the guy was sincere. (Assuming MikeN and I are remembering the right guy.)

Mike Barer said...

My wife and I's guilty pleasure is Survivor (we have bets with our friends on who will win. After reading your post, I noticed during the family reunions how hard people were crying after being away from them for only a few weeks. Including parents. No doubt, the producers do something to stir that.
Local news does that as well, they did a story about a missing dog that belonged to a senior home where my wife worked at the time. The crew tried to entice my wife to cry and when she wouldn't they cut her part.

Loosehead said...

I'm sure much of the audience tears are triggered by the blatant music choices. Even some drama shows - *cough* NCIS Los Angeles *cough* - produce completely inappropriate music at emotional moments, but my biggest bugbear among imported (here in Britland) US shows is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where even the builders can summon up a tear, or perhaps a catch in the throat. I can't watch it now.