Monday, July 14, 2008

REALITY SHOW COMPETITIONSAfter watching the newest


After watching the newest installment of the "Design Star" reality show last night on the Home and Garden Network, I have to vent about something that bothers me regarding this show and most reality competition shows. I believe the aspect that bugs me is a symptom of something disturbing in our culture. Granted, I have watched my share of reality shows, presently and in the past, such as "American Idol," "Survivor," and the "Next Food Network Star," but in some ways they are about as innocuous as watching a train wreck.

On "Design Star" this season, there has been a woman, Tracee, who all the other contestants seemed to find vastly irritating. Granted, she had a big mouth sometimes, with a gift for saying the wrong thing, and she could look unflatteringly smug and confident when it was obvious to the viewer that her butt was on the line. She made some bad decisions about the competition redos that reflected poorly on herself and others who happened to be on teams with her, although up until last night, most of them seemed to make it through to the next round. Last night, however, it was quite apparent to me that one of the unspoken goals of the other four remaining contestants was that Tracee be gone.

I was empathizing with them and feeling amazed at the self-destructive things that Tracee was doing, when I stopped myself. I couldn't believe that I was actually almost rooting them on. Since when have people become disposable, even if they are disagreeable? And I had to think about how this is one thing about reality TV competitions that I truly dislike, and why I especially don't watch "Survivor" any more: All the back-stabbing and double-dealing and scratching each other's eyeballs out, emotionally if not physically.

If I was reading the reactions of the other competitors right (and that could be a big "if"; after all, I'm not a mind-reader), they got their wish, as Tracee was one of two people booted last night. I think, though, that I wasn't exactly blind to what was going on, because Tracee's parting comment after exiting the studio, through her tears, was that she was going home to friends, family and clients who loved her, and who were these people to her? No one.

One of those who had been most firmly against Tracee and most vocal about it (I can't even remember his name -- Mark?) was also told to exit the studio for good, so she may have gotten some satisfaction from that.

Although the host of "Design Star" is a Brit, Clive Pearse, and "American Idol" originated in England and features a famous Brit, it seems to me that there is a very disturbing American tendency on reality TV competitions -- which have grown like wildfire -- to consider people as expendable.

I find it ironic, too, that some of the winners of past competitions on both HGTV and the Food Network had shows for a short time and then disappeared. Probably the biggest next Food Network star competition winner is Guy Fieri, but I think he's the only one who I see out of a number of previous winners. (I fell asleep last night before the Food Network competition at 10, so I don't know who was eliminated.)

With all of this said, I am not sure that I am able to bring myself to stop watching the HGTV and Food Network competition shows. At least, the judges of those appear kindly as much as possible, as opposed to good old Simon Cowell. Perhaps I am a hypocrite. But at least I recognize that there is this problem with our society. A friend of mine once compared the reality shows with the ancient Roman practice of throwing people to the lions, but I don't think it's that bad. Is it?

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