You cannot escape it. You will never escape it. Try as you may, you will never get away. Hope as you might, it will never go away. It's on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five motherfucking days a year. It's drunk screaming wives flipping tables. It's brave men on creaky boats complaining about the weather and praying for fish. It's policemen making arrest after arrest after arrest after arrest. It's idiotic and banal and makes you hate yourself for watching it. Teenagers spinning out over a first kiss. Parents with too many children who hate each other. It's mindless, mind-numbing, and it kills your brain. Hipsters in their early twenties pretending to live normal lives, men auditioning wives whom they will never marry. It's a complete, utter, and absolute waste of time. Contestants on an island, in the jungle, in the wilds of China, in the depths of Africa, whoever wins gets a million dollars! It makes you feel like a fool. Cougars, MILFs, wife swapping, speed dating!!! It's on from dawn to dusk, and into the depths of the night. You can't get enough of it, and you can't live without it. It's reality television. You will never fucking escape it.
I love reality television. I watch some form of it almost every day. Today, this minute, as this file sits open before me, my computer on my lap, my feet up on a table, my ass on a couch (where it often is and feels very comfortable), a remote next to me, there are, according to the digital channel guide provided by my digital cable provider (Time Warner Cable of New York City), eighty-eight reality shows available to me. I define a reality show as something constructed to resemble reality, where a camera crew follows people around while they do something. That something can be, and at this point has been, though the producers (move the fuck over, Einstein) keep coming up with new things (Board Breaker—about a Norwegian kung fu master, also a widower and a single father to two adorable blond girls, who has devoted his life to breaking boards with his hands, feet, head, and every other part of his body and is trying to set a board breaking world record), just about anything. The best of the shows are entertaining, informative, moving, and heartbreaking, and inspire us to become better people (The Biggest Loser). The worst of them, which are often the most fun to watch, are evil, cynical, nasty, mean, and ugly, and inspire long, hard laughter (The Biggest Loser Reunion: One Year Later). The shows, more of which appear on my digital channel guide every day, have all but taken over television. They're cheap to make (all you need is a crew, the subjects, and a team of editors to manipulate the footage), and there is an endless supply of people willing to be in them. They can be targeted to highly specific demographics (single female seniors living in rest homes in the Midwest) so that highly specific products can be placed in them or advertised on them while they're broadcast (adult diapers and romance novels). They cross cultures, cross racial and ethnic lines, cross religious barriers. They appeal to members of every socioeconomic class and social strata. They are watched by viewers of every age and every generation. And they're a dream for network programmers. They eat up hours, attract viewers and advertisers, and there's little at stake if one of them fails. For someone like me, we are living in a golden age.
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