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Why We Watch Crappy Reality Shows

Updated on August 15, 2008

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm not immune, my Tivo is filled with just as much reality television as yours and while I have plenty of guilt that it's not all "Meet The Press" on my Tivo there's a part of me that has accepted the fact that I'm more of a Project Runway person that a 60 Minutes person. If you give me the choice between Andy Rooney bitching about something and Austin Scarlett making a wedding dress out of tissue paper, the tissue paper is going to win every time. Why we watch crappy reality shows - Don't Get Me Started!

When I walked in to find one of my bosses watching Sunset Tan yesterday, the picture came full circle for me that we Americans are all obsessed with the crappy reality shows. I mean, here you have a guy who was a professional sports figure for years and usually has nothing but sports on and yet suddenly he's glued to the lives of some overly tanned people on a show about other people who want to get really tan. (I'll admit that I watched one or two episodes of this show when it first came on but I quickly realized that while my standards are pretty low that even this was too low for me. Good to know that I do have a bottom line when it comes to this matter) What was even more shocking was when straight men numbers two and three came into the room and also knew all the characters and what was going on with the Sunset Tan people. Shocking, right? Or is it?

As I stood there amazed that these guys were watching this like General Hospital (back in the Luke and Laura days) it made me start to think if I wasn't a physician who needed to heal thyself? You see currently my reality line up looks something like this - Project Runway (of course), Greatest American Dog, America's Got Talent, Kathy Griffin - My Life on the D List, Gs to Gents, Shear Genius and Cash Cab. You put that all together and you have a lot of crap TV going on my friends. And why? Why do I have all of this on? I don't know but it certainly made me begin to wonder...a lot.

What is the reason? Why DO we all watch all this crappy programming? I remember as a kid I would watch (on my portable color television, I bought with my own money) the Carol Burnett Show, Mary Tyler Moore and eventually Saturday Night Live. These were the shows I could not live without. Sure there was some Wonder Woman thrown in there and some Saturday cartoons but those three shows were really my staples. These shows were entertaining but today's reality television isn't so much entertaining as a way to I think make us feel better about ourselves. You see, there was never a time I felt smarter than Mary Richards but I sure do feel a hell of a lot smarter than the deluded people I see on America's Got Talent who think they're some great singing stars when actually their voices sound as if someone took a stick and ran it across a grate in the street. Is it that great sense of superiority that keeps us watching?

Or perhaps it's that by watching other people's misery or failures it helps us to not feel so bad about ourselves? During the great Depression, movie ticket sales were at their highest and the movie musical was really born to help the public "keep their sunny side up." But now it seems as though we don't want the world of fantasy to make us feel better we want to see someone making an ass out of themselves so that we feel like less of an ass ourselves. And do you know what, I'm good with that answer. That's right. There are too many things in life I can't control and when I don't feel thin, enough, smart enough, attractive enough I think I like the fact that all I have to do is turn on the television to feel a whole lot better about me and my life. And that's why I think we watch crappy reality shows - Don't Get Me Started!

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    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 9 years ago from ma

      I hate reality TV shows but thanks for explaining why other people like it. It is very cheap for the stations to create and if no one likes that can just try another one. I do actually enjoy America's got Talent. But I find it actually has some entertainment value.

    • profile image

      Adam B 9 years ago

      Here is my Reality Show line-up:

      Rock of Love, Hell's Kitchen, The Ultimate Fighter, America's Got Talent, America's Next Top Model & Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. I used to be addicted to Flavor of Love and I Love New York too.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony 9 years ago from London UK

      Watching these shows does not make you bad! if you enjoy like me enjoy without the guilt!

      I love them because i am fascinated with human behavior and like you said, it may be about watching other people's misery or failures that helps us to not feel so bad about ourselves?

      Either way, I watch Practically Only reality TV be-it, reality shows documentary and news channels!

    • dineane profile image

      dineane 9 years ago from North Carolina

      Good hub - I think you are right. I'm kind of obsessed with Big Brother. I like that it's 3 shows a week, plus Showtime after Dark, and 24 hours on the internet! Ok, not kind of, but certainly obsessed. In fact, I bet the overnight report is ready at the bbdish blogger...think I'll go see ;-)