(un) Reality Shows

One of the big things in the last few years in TV land has been the advent of “reality” shows.  These shows seem to have gained a lot of popularity, which is great for the production studios, mainly because they are cheap to make.

There seem to be a couple of types of reality shows.  The “original” type is shot on location, with little or no script, capturing people doing something interesting or risky.  Examples would be “Dirty Jobs”, “Extreme home makeover”, “The Dog Whisperer”, “Salon Takeover”, “Dog the Bounty Hunter”, “The Apprentice”, or “Property Virgins”.

Here’s a dirty little secret about these shows, for those of you who aren’t already aware: They are fake.  Yes! It’s true! I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I didn’t just read this somewhere, I was involved in the shooting of one of these for Animal Planet.  The scenario was manufactured, the scenes were set up minutes before shooting them, and there was precious little “reality” going on.

Another type is what I call the “staged” reality shows where it’s set in a studio of some type and they have “regular folk” appearing to provide the reality part.  Examples would be “Dancing With The Stars”, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, and “American Icon”.  If you think about it, “game shows” dating back to the ‘60s fit into this category.  So really, these are not “reality shows”, but just modern “game shows”.

Actual movies, or shows with a plot and card-carrying actors/actresses are a lot more time and trouble (and money) to make.  Personally, I think it’s worth the effort.  I find them much more entertaining.  I’m quite bored with the whole “reality” genre.

I frequently wonder when these boring reality shows will fall out of favor.  I mean, the networks usually cancel any decent series, so why not cancel a few of these duds?  For example, “Firefly” was a really unique show.  It had great writing, and a large, vocal, well organized viewer base who made it known to the studio how much they enjoyed the show and so forth.  Did it run for years then? Nope, it got cancelled after one season.  This seems to happen quite often, with shows running for multiple seasons and you are left scratching  your head and wondering “why would they keep THAT one?”

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Time Tunnel – precursor to Quantum Leap?

Does anybody remember the Irwin Allen TV series Time Tunnel?  It’s so perfectly inane and silly, but still enjoyable as a guilty pleasure.  It’s now available as DVD sets!  Hurrah!

The premise of the series is that the US was developing a time travel machine and 2 scientists get stuck in a different time.  The folks in the control room (surrounded by surplus computer equipment and lots of flashing lights) can’t bring them back, or communicate with them, but they can see what the pair are up to most of the time.  Usually, there is some technical difficulty that makes them helpless to intervene, even though they can and do dig up historical pictures and facts about the time and place where the scientists “landed”.

Almost all the episodes follow this simple format:

  1. The pair of scientists are “dropped” in some random time and place, with predictable rolling on the floor as they always arrive above floor level.
  2. The pair look around and try to figure out where/when they are.
  3. Bad guys show up.
  4. A fist fight ensues.
  5. Our pugilistic scientists are subdued and the bad guys announce their imminent demise.
  6. –commercial usually goes here–
  7. The rest of the episode is chock full of bad acting, cheesy sets and special effects, and serves to educate the viewer about some historical event (somewhat – literary license is frequently employed), and unravel the pair’s predicament.
  8. When the pair are finally out of peril at the end of the episode, their dirty/torn clothes are miraculously restored, and they are transported to the next timezone for a sneak peak of the next episode.

All of this predates “Quantum Leap” by many years, yet there are definitely many similarities.  I must admit though, that the acting improved a bit.  The plots are usually interesting, so if you can get past the cheese, they are worth revisiting.