Virtually every single time I'm in the company of friends, family, or even just acquaintances the subject of the conversation invariably turns to television at one point or another, and it never fails to astonish me just how many reality shows exist that people actually watch. Aside from the more commonly known ones like all of the Real Housewives, The Bachelor and Bachelorette and Joe Millionaire, Cops, Punk'd, The Amazing Race and Survivor, Big Brother, dozens of Real World incarnations, American Idol, The Voice and so on, there are countless others that bring us from reality sublime to reality ridiculous.
The reality of reality T.V. is, there are way too many reality shows to count, and some of them are surprisingly and shamelessly popular, too! Take, for instance, that car-wreck, white trashy show about a chubby (albeit cute) little beauty princess and her slovenly, pretty disgusting family, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. This very popular one first came on my radar a few months back, when my pal Sean had me watch an episode with him. I sat there for an hour, mouth agape in horrified astonishment, as these trashy slobs of people burped, farted, picked their noses, and generally hammed it up for the cameras. All I could think of was what people in other countries would think of Americans when they saw this.
I remember back in the early days of reality T.V. (okay, I know there was 'reality' television before that, but to me this was the first big wave), when MTV first began to lose the "M" as it began production of The Real World in 1992. The premise was simple: put seven young, (and good looking of course!) up and comers from all different walks of life and have them share a living space as we play voyeur to all that goes on within the confines of the beautiful space in exotic cities.
The show was a hit from the beginning and I watched religiously as casts from New York,, Los Angeles, London, Miami, New Orleans, and Las Vegas lived out their lives in this fish bowl known as The Real World. Their best season, the highly dramatic and very real third season in San Francisco, was the most fascinating of them all, as HIV/AIDS stricken Pedro Zamora put himself out there for all to see at a time when very little was known about the disease.
Pedro went about his life, using his appearance on the show as an opportunity to educate, and along the way he met the love of his life, Sean, worked his way into the hearts of his cast mates, and bore some heavy-duty bashing in his clashes with the notorious Puck. The entire season was gripping television, and unfortunately Pedro's light didn't shine too brightly long after it ended, having lost his battle with the disease in November 1994.
Eventually The Real World became less and less about real issues and more and more about partying hard, debauchery, and bunches and bunches of spoiled kids showing skin for our 'entertainment. I was turned off, but many weren't and this train wreck of so-called "reality T.V." steamrolled it's way onto the boob tube.
Today, there are reality shows on just about any topic you can think of...Amish Mafia, I Was Impaled, Extreme Couponing, Saw Dogs, Hoarders, My Giant Face Tumor (really!), and so many others. It makes you wonder where we're all headed, doesn't it? Anyway, you can check two very extensive lists of reality shows old and new on Wikipedia and Reality TV World. In the meantime, if you're a reality T.V. junkie, take it easy. Summer's coming...put down the remote, step away from American Pickers or Intervention, and go out and enjoy yourself.