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Escaping reality with reality – keeping TV real

12/08/11

I had a thought a couple of days ago that was so profound, I now believe I probably heard it somewhere else a long time ago and it’s just now resurfacing.

And the thought is this: People use TV to escape reality. But what’s on TV is mostly reality shows, which makes no sense.

I can kind of remember a time when I had shows I watched every week, and if I couldn’t be there to actually watch the show, I would set the VCR to tape it.

For younger readers, a VCR is a device that weighs 30 pounds and transfers TV shows onto . . . .nevermind. It’s an antique DVR.

In the 80’s and 90’s, I watched shows like X-Files, Will and Grace, Cheers, Alf, ER, The Sopranos, Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice.

If you read closely, you’ll notice that reality had nothing to do with any of those shows. Although for a brief, hideous span of time some men wore boat shoes and sherbet-colored pants without socks so that, in reality, they thought would look like Sonny Crocket on Miami Vice.

I, for one, am glad that passed.

I made a list of the TV shows I’ve watched in the past week and here’s what came up: Alaska: Gold Rush, Housewives of (insert name of city here), Ghost Hunters, Bridezillas, X-Factor, Family Guy, Have Gun Will Travel and A Christmas Carol.

Of those, all but three are reality shows. And of the reality shows, most are just watching other people screwing up worse than you, which is where the appeal may be.

Although televisions were produced commercially in the 1930’s, I think they were more of a novelty in most American homes until the 1950’s.

At least that’s what early episodes of Happy Days led me to believe.

Back when I was a young kid, we had three channels to choose from and no remote control, a story that now sounds dangerously synonymous with my parents’ renditions of walking a mile to school in the snow, uphill each way.

But back in the 1970’s, my family of seven had one TV in the living room, and the person who got to pick the channels was the one who paid for the TV.

And we watched a ton of stuff that only my parents were interested in, which is probably the reason I excel in trivia today.

However, young people – and this is the truth - programming started at about 5 a.m. and ended each day around midnight with an American Flag and the National Anthem telling you to go to bed, followed by what my sisters and I called “ant fights.”

Ant fights were just a jumbled mess of black and white on the television screen with accompanying static noise.

All the TV you could watch was crammed into 19 or so hours of the day on three channels.

With hundreds of channels that broadcast 24 hours a day, I suppose that’s where the answer to reality TV lies.

They had to fill it with something and infomercials, home shopping networks and voyueristic TV shows about other people’s drama, talent and choices seemed the natural answer.

My family of two today has four TV’s – in the living room, kitchen, bedroom and office, and all of them are hooked up to cable.

There are no ant fights on TV anymore unless somebody runs over your neighborhood cable box, while most likely driving an SUV with a built-in DVD player.

And I’m not being self-righteous about it, I watch that crap.

I just wish I didn’t know who the Kardashians are.