Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Reality" Shows

There is the typical bad reality show, and then there is the good one. There's a very thin line between them and it's oh so easy to cross over to the bad side. It can even happen in the middle of a season. I don't know exactly what make a good reality show... or at least what makes it good in my eyes.

I think that, for me, the show has to be at least somewhat genuine to catch my fascination. I know they're all staged to some extent, but I need some real human emotions and interactions. If there's real-ness, I can watch a whole conversation on TV with undivided interest. Maybe it's because of my weird habit of analyzing people, I don't know.

This is probably the reason why I lost interest in the MTV show "The Life of Ryan," about the famous skater boy Ryan Sheckler. I first watched the show simply to give it a chance- I was probably bored at the time. I also had very low expectations because the whole concept was already unpromising. But I ended up loving the show with all my heart. Ignoring the cheesy voice-over/narration by Ryan himself and the even more cheesy and frequent video "flash backs" to Ryan's happy childhood, the show turned out to have a heart and it pulled me in. At first look I thought Ryan was another cocky teenager whose early success inevitably went to his head, but he actually surprised me. What broke my wall of cynicism was the way he treated his two brothers- one a couple years younger and very quiet, the other just a little kid (with huge, adorable eyes). When the youngest brother (I think his name is Kane) fell while "scootering" and started crying, Ryan ran to him to help him out, saying, "Come on buddy, you're okay." Then in another episode Kane cried because Ryan was so busy with his friends and traveling that he didn't hang out with him as much anymore and Ryan felt really bad and took him out somewhere. Then the older, quiet brother- this is weird but there was just something so real about him- you don't get a lot of quiet people on TV because they're not "entertainment." Plus the whole deal with Ryan having to deal with his parents' divorce and being stuck in the middle, and his dad dating a gross blonde bimbo who yells at him "I love you!" out of nowhere while he leaves their house, which understandably causes him to freak out and go back to his mom in horror and confusion.

Anyway, all of the interactions and conversations on the show, at least on the part of Ryan's family, were surprisingly genuine and they transcended the cheesy structure of the show.

Yet, there was a turning point. The show apparently became very successful, although while it was on I felt like I was pretty much the only one watching it. Then the new season recently started, with more MTV attention as they have very few successes these days... and something changed. The first two episodes were alright, a bit worrisome but still the story sucked me in. But by the third, I think it became undeniable. The producers structured and manipulated the content so much that it lost all substance, all that made it what it was. I don't care if they want to tell Ryan and his manager to meet at a restaurant and talk- but please don't make it so obvious. Like, to the point that it become absolutely undeniable that producers are constantly feeding every talking point to each person. That ruins everything. And that's what I felt was happening... Also, they kept pushing a non-existent story line. Fine, it was somewhat there- something about Ryan feeling lost with all of the new business negotiations. But there was something disturbingly contrived about how many times he mentioned it to every person. It's like, "enough, we got it the first time. We're not retards, MTV, we swear." So nearly all the magic of the show was lost, and I sadly stopped watching that episode half-way through. I might give it another try, but I'm not too optimistic.

With success comes the downfall, I guess... MTV sure knows how to kill a good thing and keep alive all the bad things, eh?

Well, at least I currently have: Project Runway, the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, and Make Me a Supermodel. Ooh and Top Chef soon... and then there's that new Bravo dance show that looks very promising. The good thing about reality shows is that they come in droves.

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