How Reality TV Ruins Everything

James Wolcott takes on the TV trend that just won't die
By Emily Rauhala,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2009 1:16 PM CST
How Reality TV Ruins Everything
Real Housewives, aka "tricked-out posses of Dynasty-throwback vamps and nail-salon addicts."   (AP Photo/Peter Kramer,File)

Pop culture critic James Wolcott says the dregs of reality TV have ruined television and, in doing so, ruined America. It's not talent-based competitions like Top Chef we need to worry about, he reasons, but programs about the "contrived antics of glorified nobodies and semi-cherished has-beens." His acid-tongued essay for Vanity Fair concludes the genre has:

  • Priced out good shows: "Since reality programming is cheaper to produce, intricate brainteasers such as Bones, Lost, and the original CSI have to fight even harder to hold their own against the plethora of reality shows catering to romantic fools looking to land a rich sucker."

  • Ruined documentaries: "Murrow and his disciples have been supplanted by Jeff Probst, the grinny host of CBS’s Survivor, framed by torchlight in some godforsaken place and addressing an assembly of coconuts."
  • Hurt participants: "The migrant camera fodder is often kept isolated, sleep-deprived, and alcoholically louche to render the subjects edgy and pliant and susceptible to fits."
  • Played to our worst: "Good manners and decorum are anathema to Reality TV, where impulsivity swings for the fences."
  • Given voyeurism a bad name: "The viewer’s passivity is kept intact, pampered and massaged and force-fed Chicken McNuggets of carefully edited snippets that permit him or her to sit in easy judgment and feel superior."
(Read more reality TV stories.)

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