Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why? I really want to know.

Why do people watch reality television? Is it voyeurism? Is it a desire to see the underdog win? Is it because they think they might see real talent, or real personality? Is it an opportunity to rub one's hands together in glee at the traumatic politics of a group of people from diverse backgrounds coming together in a high pressure environment? Is it to see people succeed? Is it to see people lose? Is it because there's nothing else on and books, music, films, conversation or rooting aren't an option? Fucked if I know. What I can say is this:

Up until recently I had never, ever - and I mean it sincerely - I really never have, I promise, seriously, without falsification, embellishment or exaggeration, watched an entire episode of a reality television program. Never. Ever. Never had the desire. Never had the interest. Never thought I had the time. However...

I somehow got caught up in the MasterChef brouhaha. I like cooking. I'm interested in it. I cook at home. I cook reasonably well, if not a little conservatively. And despite the myriad cooking show options available, I found myself tuning in. Sure enough, after a few episodes, I was hooked. I know everyone's names, I have favourites, I have enemies. I wish for the demise of some, the success of others. I get tense prior to eliminations. I scoff at bad meals and cheer for the great ones. I plan my own dinner to be ready on the dot of 7pm, so I can sit with the missus with plates on laps and watch the whole drama unfold. And talk about it as if we personally know the contestants. As if it was of great importance. As if the future of mankind depended on it.

The thing is, I see it for what it is. I know how these shows are made. I understand that it's all contrived to maximise ratings. I know there's the token Asian, the token spunk, the token black man. I hate the incessant repetition, I hate the bad editing, the melodrama and the cliches. I hate the hypocrisy, the product placements and the inane and superfluous semi-host (er, the 3 judges are men, better get a woman in there, even if she is vacuous).

But I watch it anyway. Religiously. What have I become?


WitchOne said...

Lewd, in this we are the same. There is no rhyme or reason it just is.

I love it, I am unashamed. I let my 4 year old stay up late to watch it, we snuggle and watch it together. As far as TV goes this is a good one, Gareth and I talk about it, we discuss food, what is well done and what is utter shit.

I have Master Chef to thank for this mutual interest with my son, something we couldn't previously achieve in the kitchen because I am an impatient bitch.

Leilani said...

Me too. Totally addicted. And for the record, Chris is my favourite.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why people watch reality shows. I certainly haven't liked any of the ones I've ever seen.

I used to share a flat with a bloke who would spend every moment he possibly could in front of the telly, feverishly clicking the remote in an attempt to watch every show on every channel at the same time. After we parted company, I kind of stopped watching altogether. My TV hasn't been turned on in over a week.

Somebody asked me the other day if I had seen Master Chef. I had no idea what they were talking about. Is it really that good? What is it even about?

Melba said...

But Bob, you've just listed all the reasons why people watch this stuff, and then said you have no idea why! I have to say, I have dipped my toe in the well of most reality tv shows. I've watched Survivor, Race Around the World, the Apprentice, various Idols, Big Brothers, even managed to see Keeping Up with the Kardashians for god's sake. What I have never watched is Biggest Loser and those dancing shows and other talent shows. I have scorned reality tv for the last 5 or so years. Completely saturated, completely cynical. It had all turned to crap.

Except for Master Chef. The thing is, the judges aren't cunts to the contestants, the contestants aren't cunts to each other. There's no skanky hos pole dancing or dudes talking about chicks in demeaning ways. The editing and repetition drive me insane as well, but like others who watch it, we sit down as a family. We have new jokes in the kitchen along the lines of "What would George say?" and "I'll be the judge of that" [said in a Matt Preston voice.] We talk about plating up, and all have our favourites as well, and the ones we don't like.

I for one cannot wait for the next crop. We will be watching.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Cripes, Matt Preston is a big bloke.

Never having watched a single episode of any reality television show, that's all I really have to say.

I can't watch cooking programs - they make me hungry.

Except for Nigella Lawson - she gives me trouble in another area entirely.

wari lasi said...

Ramon I'm with you regarding Nigella, I don't care what she's cooking.

I've never watched this show but it sounds like I'll have to give it a go now.

Cath said...

Bravo Melba.. so true. The judges are not cunts to the contestants. When the outcome of a cook-off isn't critical, they give constructive criticism and wonderful supportive comments. When it is critical, they are honest and incisive, but not cruel for cruelty's sake.

I watch only Big Brother and Masterchef - but Masterchef wins hands down for reality tv. Sure, they are all slightly contrived... for fuck's sake... They have wanted Po around for EVER and even got her back to keep her around. But still... I tune in slathering over the food and comments.

And frankly, Matt is a bit of a spunk!

Mr E Discharge said...

I'm frightened too,Bob. All of a sudden, the universe has beem irrevocably changed,things you knew "FOR SURE" are now clouded by doubt.

I can only think that some Executive Producter, close to retirement, was pulling on his cowboy boots one morning when he had an epithany.

"What if we made a program that didn't demean either the cast or the viewers?" "We could put it on at 7.00pm instead of the Simpson's repeats!" "We could make it an hour long, nobodies pushed our viewers attention span to that level in that timeslot before."
"We could spend even more than a buck twenty a program minute!"
"It'll be great!" "Career's fucked anyway."

I can remember from years ago when an Executive Producer had an original thought, he survived, but only because the public loved the switch to colour.

But where to from here? The possibilities terrify me.

Leilani said...

I don't get this Matt Preston is a spunk angle. I think he's a good judge and I appreciate his comments - but I find him physically repulsive.

Perseus said...

I'm hanging in there Bob. I've still never watched a full episode, or even half an episode of any reality show, and that includes the one I was on.

Melba vs Perseus snob-off: Score is one all.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Marieke thinks Matt Preston is a bit of alright.

Make of that what you will.

kitten said...

Thats why I like the Biggest Loser and SYTYCD. Both shows aim to show the contestants getting better at what they are doing, succeeding in their goals, and everyone is nice to each other. Both shows are very emotional, but SYTYCD has the advantage of excellent fast paced editing, something the other shows could learn from.
Hooked once more on the US versions currently screening. I heart Jillian and Cat Deeley!

Melba said...

I had another thought while walking the dog. Why do people respond to television, reality or otherwise? For us, it satisfies the human need for storytelling. We don't sit around caves fires any more, we don't sit around the wireless radio anymore. You can trace the evolution of storytelling through history. Why do we watch these shows and others? There is a narrative in them all which appeals to our need to be told stories. It's just a matter of which stories you like.

We don't watch alot of tv. It's never on in the mornings, including weekends. We watch, as a family, one show a night. At the moment, it's Masterchef. At times, it has been Neighbours, Friends on dvd, or nothing. Clokes and I are working our way through Sopranos, but usually for me, it's a book.

Why do I feel like I have to justify why I like these shows? Who really gives a fuck? Each to his own.

I don't know. Maybe women are drawn more to the reality shows because it satisfies the need in us to be involved in gossip and voyeurism?

Matt Preston. He has a charisma. A je ne sais quois. But I get it. I'd pick him for dinner over the other two.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

We don't sit around caves fires any more

Speak for yourself.

squib said...

I really miss 'Bachelor' and its spin-offs

Fad MD said...

Chains of Love was my all-time fave.

Ah, the menace of the keymaster...

WitchOne said...

You'd have to pick Matt, George eats like a pig and Gary is a little too effeminate for my liking.

Ahhh, I have to admit, my guilty secret was always Iron Chef, I still adore it but Masterchef has support instead of drama and teaches technique which is handy for us at home too.

Andre is an idiot.

Julie needs to go back home to her kids.

Poh gives me the screaming shits but her art is crap so maybe she's looking for a career change.

Sammy, ahhh little Sammy. Useless as tits on a bull.

Chris and Justine are my picks for this competition, I like them both but Chris has such MASSIVE ears, I couldn't believe those ears when they were on the ship. HUGE ears!

WitchOne said...

By the way, has anyone noticed Chris' ears?

Lewd Bob said...

I guess that's why he wears that hat, Witchy.

catlick said...

That hat must be gross by now. Pork Pie indeed! And the big guy channeling Oscar Bumphries* is a hoot.

*Made up name, just now, no really.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

What's your feeling on hats generally, Catlick?

Leilani said...

Witchy my husband just pointed out the size of Chris's ears the other night. They are HUGE, elephant-like. Best keep the hat on.

Leilani said...

And Perseus I'll bite - WHICH reality show were you on?

catlick said...

Off the top of my head...I approve if they are a legitimate part of the uniform, e.g. a mitre, and if they make the wearer look hot, e.g. Judy Garland in "Get Happy". I myself am known locally for my hat, which is not unlike Inspector Gadget's. It does not make me look hot but does keep rain off my head. Melbourne Cup day is just sad. Young men look good in hats. That is all.

Anonymous said...

I approve if they are a legitimate part of the uniform, e.g. a mitre,

Ramon and I are in luck.

and if they make the wearer look hot,

Ramon and I are out of luck.

Young men look good in hats.

Ramon and I are really out of luck.

Oh well, back to plan b - offering young women at parties eternal salvation in return for a night of unbridled sin.

Anonymous said...

offering young women at parties eternal salvation in return for a night of unbridled sin.

Or bridled, if that butters their mustard.

Lewd Bob said...


What is more absurd than those dimwitted teenage boys who wear chunky, hip-hop caps offset to one side, accompanied by ridiculous, pixelated tracky tops and pants hanging low to reveal their fucking underpants?

Nothing, that's what.

Jesus, I despise the little turds.

Cath said...

Oh jesus, Typo of the most major variety... I would NEVER watch Big Brother.. I meant Biggest Loser.

/hangs head in shame/

WitchOne said...

Leilani, I think that episode was the first time those ears have seen daylight, ever, and I can understand why!

Melba said...

It's funny though. I can't understand why Cath watches Biggest Loser and she can't understand why I've watchED [past tense] Big Brother.

Why do I have to be at pains to explain it was five years ago? Because there is such a stigma attached to it. But for me, watching idiots is better than watching fat idiots. The way they make them wear those horrible revealing clothes. And I can say that because I'm not a skinny bitch.

I guess it's like foreskins. Down to personal preference.

catlick said...

I stumbled across Reggie (BB) last night on a medical horror show. She's going blind. Melba go get your eyes tested.

Anonymous said...

Pfft. Jade Goody died for reality TV. Lift your game Reggie.

Melba said...

It was Perseus who was on a reality show, not me catlick. If that's what you mean. Hard to know.

patchouligirl said...

I've watched a few episodes of Masterchef but am not addicted. I prefer Jamie Oliver as he teaches recipes for everyday. I'm never going to make a croque en bouche or roast a pigs head I hope and although there are some techniques to be learnt on Masterchef, there is so much other nonsense I got sick of it. The judges all irritate me. I have no idea why women would think Matt is heterosexual, let alone hot. The only reality tv show we've ever become addicted to was the first few seasons of Idol. I don't mind a bit of karaoke.

catlick said...

"she can't understand why I've watchED [past tense] Big Brother."

Sorry Melba, I was drawing a long bow. If all past watchers went blind it would be Day Of The Triffids all over again.

Loose Shunter said...

I like Masterchef also. It is compulsory viewing at our house and everything stops for it.

For me, Matt Preston is the character I relate to the most. A very Dorian Grey like character, he is an ageing, jaded aesthete for whom food has replaced the other sensual pleasures of the flesh and whose sartorial elegance is a sight to behold. He is as I would like to be - a world-weary voluptuary.

I'm looking forward to finals night when he appears dressed in a dinner suit (sans jacket), satin smoking jacket , silk cravat and a fez. Possibly smoking a hookah of hashish or a pipeful of opium.

WitchOne said...

Who didn't love Matts comment last night comparing a panacotta to a Rubenesque woman tottering on 5inch stilettos'?

That was the comment of the season in my view!

Cath said...

Bravo Melba... foreskin bear their ugly heads again (all puns intended!!!).

And Witchy.... I went all aquiver last night when Matt discussed Rubenesque women in stilletos. Made me want to run and put on my stilletos immediately....! Oh Matt! You are a poncy, fat bastard, but if he likes women half as much as he likes food - his wife is one LUCKY lady!

Melba said...

Ladies, I agree. That stiletto comment was awesome. But better than that was when he said his 8-year-old son wanted to make squid, including the cleaning, pulling out of the innards etc "because Sam did." It wasn't what he said exactly, it was the generosity and the compassion he said it with. It was a gift to hopeless Sam, a message to tell him not to give up his ambitions. Matt's facial expressions are excellent and very subtle, it's like reading a book in dim light. Love it. It's taken me ages to work out what his facials mean.

I have a Fez and my dad's wedding tux, if we decide to ever have a MasterChef party.


I think all the judges are perfect. I like George's entertainment value (knuckles, hunched over intent, inability to pronounce "oil") and Gary gets a sweet, cheeky look on his face that is all about food-delight. I will be devo when it finishes, and hope they crank the next one out before Chrissy. Without a single change to the format. Editing as mentioned is crap, but it's deliberate and I can see why they do it.

Melba said...

Oh and looked for Chris' massive ears last night, but they were always covered with hair. Wonder if they are on youtube?

Big ears are a sign of generosity. I don't think it's a bad thing.

Oh, and catlick, thanks for explaining. I get it now!

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I too have a fez, Melba.

My sister brought it back from Fez.

Louche said...

I thought the best masterchef comment of the week was "I believe in myself, I believe in my sausage."

Gold. I am a late convert to Masterchef but am enjoying the non-nastiness, same with SYTYCD. I think viewers are pretty tired with vapid and vindictive contestants and judges. (That said, Cheaters is the best reality TV show eva!)

Chris looks like a very unhealthy man. All that offal cannot be good.

eat my shorts said...

I got sucked into MasterChef as well. I like the fact that it's a learning experience. And I just like food as well, so that helps a bit.

I think Chris is going to win, but I don't like him or his stupid hat that much.

As for the judges, Matt Preston is a bit of a tosser, but I still think he's a good judge. George is ok, and Gary needs to find a few synonyms for the word "beautiful". Although I heart the fact he always pronounces the 't'.