I’m sure if someone told you ten short years ago about what would pass for entertainment in 2012, you would have looked at them as if perhaps they’d lost their mind.
“There’s going to be a show about an exterminator, OK? The camera follows him around while he gets raccoons out of attics and knocks hornets’ nests down from porches. Sometimes he gets stung by the bees and possums try to bite him. He wears a funny hat and he’s like..a rocker dude? Then, there’s gonna be this other show, OK? where they follow meter maids around in Philadelphia while they give parking tickets and put boots on cars. It’s gonna be really funny because it makes Philly look even worse than usual. Cool, right? There’s all kinds of people screaming and yelling ’cause you know, nobody likes having their car towed and stuff. Then, there’s gonna be this other cool show where you watch people make cakes, but wait, don’t make that face, cause they’re really cool cakes that don’t even look like cakes man, and the bakers are all like these kind of Soprano-talking dudes and then…”
By this point you’d have tuned the person out and tried not to roll your eyes at their insane rambling. He’s off his meds again – hide the pets.
Of course, as we know all too well, these are all shows which have actually come to life in these strange times.
Now the obvious question: What next? What could possibly be more interesting than watching inept, out-of-work loggers trying to mine gold in Alaska? What in the world could compare with the trials and tribulations of rich, suburban housewives from Atlanta, Orange County or New York? Hold on to your hard-hats and/or breast implants people, because I’ve figured it out!
Several of these shows have already given us hints as to the future of reality entertainment. “The Deadliest Catch” stepped away from showing the gritty, tough lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea and focused instead on their own difficult job of recording the gritty, tough lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. That’s right – they showed the cameramen, sound guys and producers of the show as they worked in challenging conditions to film the fishermen. On a special episode of “Gold Rush”, the emphasis was on filming the film crew running around to catch all the action as miners threw tantrums and pick-axes (OK, I’ll admit, I didn’t see anyone threw a pick-axe – it’s called poetic license).
A brief, but necessary detour from our topic: It’s a fact that nothing is more appealing to show-biz people than shows about show biz-people. You can see it now and way-back-when in entertainment from sixty or seventy years ago. The black and white movie flickers on the screen, some freckle-faced young actor calls out “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!”. Soon the whole gang is building scenery and practicing dance numbers. There were notably fewer movies where the freckle-faced youngster calls out “Hey kids, let’s open a veterinary clinic” or “Say fellas, wouldn’t it be swell if we started our own full service nail salon right here on Main Street?!”
In the years since, there’s been plenty of narcissistic examples of show biz focusing on itself. Movies and TV series like “Fame”, “A Chorus Line”, “A Star Is Born” and more recently “Smash” all tell the stories of people acting and singing all about their lives acting and singing.
I know what you’re thinking: “Dave, what the hell does ‘Smash’ and ‘A Chorus Line’ have to do with reality TV?” Keep your pants on, I told you it was a brief detour, didn’t I?
Show biz has waited patiently for America to get through this awkward phase of infatuation with reality TV. Now they have found the gateway back into our viewing hearts. Drum roll please…The next phase in reality shows is:
Reality shows about the making of reality shows! The reality show will have less emphasis on the subject of the show and increasingly focus on the people who make the reality shows. After the new “show about a show about a baker” phase runs its course, the logical evolutionary step into the future will be “a show about a show about a show about an exterminator”. There will be a brief period where cameramen and sound engineers will be as famous as Kardashians.
As the number of people on-camera swells, it will be increasingly difficult for producers to count on so many people who have traditionally been on the opposite side of the lens to act naturally. Since the 1st and 2nd camera units will no longer be shooting any actual footage, the producers will eventually replace them with good looking young actors and actresses.
Within a few additional years, the viewers, who aren’t all that bright to begin with, will not be able to tell reality TV from scripted TV. Television will once again be in the business of telling stories. Writers, long thought extinct, will creep back into brainstorming sessions. Actors, who were already confused by all of this, will settle back into the simple job of pretending to be a fictional character in a scene, rather than posing as a cameraman in a show about a show about a show about people who buy abandoned storage lockers.
I didn’t think so. Don’t worry, just keep watching TV and it will all be explained to you in due time.