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A little less reality, a few more ducks on TV

September 29, 2013
By WES BURNS - Copy Editor (wburns@timesrepublican.com) , Times-Republican

If you try to start a conversation with someone about TV this week here is how it's going to go:

"Hey, did you see that ..."

"'Breaking Bad!' 'Breaking Bad!' I hate Todd! 'Breaking Bad!'"

Alright calm down ... we all hate Todd.

Like many of you, I have been engaged in some serious speculation as of late. Will Jesse escape? Will Todd kill Lydia? Will Walt ventilate the Gray Matter offices with that ludicrously big machine gun from the flash forward?

And if you don't know what I'm talking about then maybe you shouldn't care: It's the last episode, now is not the time to complain about spoilers.

But as much as it pains me to admit, there are other shows on TV besides "Breaking Bad."

I know, I know ... but it's true.

I think one reason, one of the many reasons, that people enjoy "Breaking Bad" as much as they do is that the show, and the other well scripted shows that preceded it, offered a reprieve from that scourge of the television viewscape: Reality TV.

Reality TV, in all it's horror, has dominated airwaves and ratings charts alike for the better part of two decades now. And the trend has no intention of ceasing.

Behold: The champion of A&E's lineup, "Duck Dynasty."

Yes, that show. There was a time when people had the common decency to at least consider reality TV fare to be a guilty pleasure not discussed amongst the general populous for fear of scorn and reprisal. But now it is nigh impossible to peruse my Facebook newsfeed, filled with only the finest personal information from an elite list of friends, coworkers and people I?once had a class with 10 years ago, without being assailed by a barrage of decidedly faux-red neck paraphernalia, pictures of the cast featuring quotes from the show, and limitless reminders to "set my DVR!"

As intolerable as it may be, all of this would be a bit more palatable if it were not for one simple fact that every viewer of that show knows but stubbornly refuses to admit: It's fake.

Yes, those guys are real. Yes, those are their real names. Yes, they own a business where they make duck calls. That's where the "reality" portion stops and the "TV" portion begins.

Who lives their day to day life almost NEVER working while occasionally intersecting with a B-plot that dovetails into a succinct summation that ends with a joke?

Characters on a TV show, that's who.

"Duck Dynasty" isn't the only culprit, not by far, but their meteoric rise in the ratings as of late has underscored a disturbing trend in the much maligned reality TV genre.

The reality seems to be disappearing.

Sure, there were always alleged reality programs (the "Real World" comes to mind) but we all believed that the lack of reality came in the all powerful editing room; where small bits of disconnected footage could be strung together to create an entire plot where none existed before.

And we were OK with that. Because no matter what you may think of manipulative editing practices what they are manipulating you with is, or was at some point in time, real.

But with the rise of scripted-reality shows ("Duck Dynasty, "Pawn Stars," and the worst offender of all "Shipping Wars") even the manipulative, heavily edited reality shows are being unceremoniously dumped in lieu of goofier, schadenfreude-laced fare.

And so passes "Intervention," perhaps the last real reality show.

Often hard to watch "Intervention" was a sobering view into the lives of real people with real addictions. A show with a good intention and a difficult execution "Intervention" stood apart from other reality shows in that it actually wanted to help people. No spectacle, no pomp, just the horrible day to day existence of addiction and the chance to escape, whether it works or not.

And now it's over.

And not only has "Intervention" (which actually won an Emmy in 2009) been canceled, so has its spinoff "Hoarders;" I can only assume to make more room for TV shows which take a more light hearted approach to a pathological inability to dispose of waste.

Reality TV shows become more and more scripted, while scripted TV shows like "Breaking Bad" become more and more realistic. I can only assume this will culminate in a spinoff series called "The Real Meth Cooks of Orange County," staring Bob Odenkirk and one of those so-tan-they're-orange ladies I see on the E! network. It will be the greatest show ever made ... except for maybe "The Wire."

 
 

 

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