The sad part is that I spent two hours of my life this evening (minus commercials since I’m watching via TiVO) sitting on the edge of my couch watching the finale of Average Joe. The concept? A kick-ass babe is set up to meet the man of her dreams and finds herself faced with a group of “nerds”. I put that in quotes because the term is so non-definable these days with the likes of Bill Gates running the world, that there really aren’t any more of them left. In reality, this reality show is about looks. Plain and simple.
You can imagine the beauty-queen’s reaction when she saw who she was supposed to hook up with. After half of them had been ousted, and a few pretty-boys had been brought in to mix up the pot, she was eventually left with these two (one of the originals, one of the pretty-boys):
Weeks later, she’s down to a guy she continually refers to as “pretty”, “the most beautiful man I have ever seen” and “adorable”. The amount of times she whispers to this guy how pretty he is, I couldn’t even keep track on my hands. Sure, he’s a good looking guy. But he lives at home with his parents. Not to mention, he has no job, he’s still in college. And he has nothing interesting to say except for, on one of their last dates, that he was ordering a ton of drinks to “get her guard down”.
The competitor, one of the original “average” Joes wasn’t a “pretty” man but he had a great sense of humor, was always making her laugh, and something revealed late in the game — he is a millionaire who owns his own NYC stock trading company, etc. I had my money on this guy.
Had that been real money, I’d be broke.
I don’t necessarily get her decision, and the sad part is that I even care enough to write down anything in regards to it. These reality shows (and you’ll see why these comments are so ironic) most of the time are just plain stupid. I’ve never been a fan of the dating reality shows simply because none of the relationships ever last. They can’t. There’s no way in hell that the experience of meeting someone in front of cameras and having to re-film dates because the camera guys missed something, can ever result in something reasonable genuine.
I worked on a show once called 24 Hour Pass for NBC. Never made it past the pilot stage, but it was one of these dating shows, and it was ridiculous how much had to be controlled by the production. I mean, we’re sitting there filming this couple who are FREEZING their asses off in a hot tub, candles all around — and the producers keep pulling the guy out asking him when he’s going to make his move. “We wan’t to see some macking,” I recall them saying. Then, when someone would be talking to the camera in their “journal-mode”, if they weren’t saying what the producers wanted or not emotional enough, the producers would step in and try to motivate the reaction they wanted for the drama.
Did I mention I wasn’t a fan of the dating shows?
Now, here’s the ironic part. I happen to be one of the writers/producers on the upcoming Celebrity Mole 2 for ABC. The difference, though, is that it’s strictly a game-show with reality mixed in. And the kicker is that when you’re working on a reality-game show where people actually win huge sums of money, standards and practices disallow you from re-filming anything or nudging people in any direction. You can create the games and challenges with drama in mind — but you can never put people in positions or tell them you’d like them to react certain ways just for the show.
I know a lot of people who work in reality TV. As we speak, some of them are jockeying to try and turn my book Consumer Joe into a sort-of hybrid reality show that would have characteristics of a Michael Moore-esque fighting for the consumer type comedy show. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of crappy reality shows being shot out there and I get calls for a bunch of them regularly. I turn a lot of them down for two reasons. One, I’m not eating Top Ramen yet, so I don’t need to take a job just to take a job. Second — they suck.
Too many times someone’s on the phone telling me about their new show and if it involves midgets pulling a 747 plane, or a music channel’s reality show about a washed-up 70’s music star and his backwoods farm in Texas…well, the motivation isn’t there.
The reality that works is either full, un-controlled drama like the shows on Discovery Channel or documentaries on HBO. Otherwise, the only really engaging shows don’t look for that “twist” per se. It’s just about people. (Insert sniffling sound here.) (I don’t know that I fully explained, that the sniffling sound is MY sniffling sound cause I’m faking being sad.)
Oh, people. Didn’t Barbra sing a song about people?