Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A long ramble about a show I never watch

The entertainment media is abuzz with the season three premiere of "The Hills." First: can this really be the third year? Second: I still don't quite get it. I understand the attraction of reality television, having had some level of fascination with several of its incarnations. You have the competitive reality ("Survivor," "Amazing Race," "Top Chef," "American Idol," etc.), the dating reality ("Bachelor" and its brethren - can you tell I don't watch?), the celeb reality (thanks to "The Osbournes" we have evolved to such scintillating television as "Scott Baio is 45 and Single"), and then the strangers-forced-to-live-together genre spawned by the granddaddy of them all, "The Real World," and now characterized by such variations as "Wife Swap" and "Big Brother" (which crosses over into competitive reality since there is a prize at the end for the one who survives living with these oddball strangers the longest.)

But "The Hills" and its predecessor "Laguna Beach" are the first to have cameras following "everyday" people around in their actual lives, without forcing them to live on an island or live in an 1800's house or room with people they'd probably not chose to sit next to on a bus. I say "everyday" because this crop was originally chosen because they were rich and pretty and lived in the beach side communities then being fictionalized on "The O.C." I tried watching "Laguna Beach" but couldn't get very far. It wasn't the difficulty in finding anything to relate to from spoiled blond teenagers, but an inability to get beyond the look of the show: instead of the usual taped look, the shows are presented as filmed. (You know the difference, the slightly deeper focus, the tiny bit of graininess - think a taped live sitcom like "Friends" vs. something filmed in multiple locations like "My Name is Earl.") It's jarring to see something filmed that's not scripted, and suddenly the "reality" aspect of the show starts to disappear and it all seems fake.

Now further blurring the lines is that the "stars" of the show are paparazzi darlings right alongside the celebrities who make a living playing fictional characters. So here's Angelina Jolie, appearing in People magazine's "Stars: They are just like us!" pages with her cup of Starbucks, so unlike her on screen persona, but when you tail Lauren from "The Hills" aren't you just getting another promo for her reality show? Or an outtake from the same? Ostensibly there is nothing different between the Lauren that is on MTV this week and the one you might see standing on line at a movie theater, right?

The reason I started this whole boring post is not just to explain why I don't watch "The Hills" but because it dawned on me today that this show is the closest we have to the premise of "Ed TV," which in the long ago past of 1999 tried to imagine what it would be like to have a camera follow a person around in their everyday life. (Granted, Ed was 24 hours and live, not fractured and reconstituted into neat storylines in MTV's crack editing lab.) The difference is that the attention drove Ed crazy and he bailed, while Lauren and her ilk are thriving on it.


Blogger Pynchon said...

Scott Baio is 45???

Good Lord. Have I travelled in time?

2:58 PM  

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