Putting the Rube in Boob Tube

I am periodically reminded about why I hate reality television. This includes many of the so-called talk shows.

Someone I know very well was actually on a talk show some years ago on a panel, speaking about an important topic. Yet when the promos came out for the show, which was NOT Jerry Springer, but rather a JS-lite host, it was all about whatever elements made the topic controversial. As it was, my acquaintance hardly got in a word edgewise because other participants were far more aggressive. I had actually forgotten this, though I have the show on a VCR tape.

Then I got this e-mail this week from a group called Vitiligo Friends:

We are looking for 2 people—we are taping this March 25th in the morning:

1. A woman in her 30s to 40s who was either recently diagnosed or has had Vitiligo for years and has affected their lives. We are looking for someone who’s face is pretty extreme and it has affected their lives in a negative way. They can’t work because their Vitiligo has affected them, or they have issues dating and forming relationships. Is it holding them back? We need someone who has a severe enough case where makeup cannot be used. Please email XXX@yyy.com along with your name, age, location and photos.

2. A woman in her 30s to 40s who is a success story. We want someone who has tried either UV light therapy or topical creams and it has worked for them to be a success and inspiration story for others. This person should have an interesting back story as well and turned to these treatments to gain confidence.

Please email XXX@yyy.com along with your name, age, location and photos, including a before and after photo if possible.

This, BTW, is for the Dr. Oz show, the physician who Oprah has promoted.

Now why would anyone want to be person #1, subjecting himself or herself to be, essentially, the BEFORE picture in a BEFORE and AFTER photo? On national syndicated TV, no less.

Now there WAS a follow-up e-mail from the Dr. Oz folks, probably in reaction to the initial message: “We are looking to help someone with a more severe case of vitiligo–we have a specialist available who has a new cosmetic procedure out that could work for various people. We would love a woman in her 30s-40s who has tried some treatments and they haven’t worked and now worries that her vitiligo will and is effecting her life in a negative way. We want this to be positive and to have a positive outcome for our guest.”

Well, thank you for THAT. Positive outcome, you say.

These demi-stars end up having their lives parsed in a 24-hour media blitz, which needs to report on which Real Housewife of East Podunk is having a smackdown with another Real Housewife. Or whether someone appearing on The Bachelor once poised for sex magazines. Or whatever.

Whatever visceral pleasure one might get from watching this stuff – and I don’t – I REALLY don’t understand anyone who actually wants to APPEAR on most of these programs these days. And while I suppose I understand the appeal of 15 minutes of fame, I think that my overexposure to these folks that pop from one reality show to another, even in passing, makes the watching of same beyond my comprehension.

Even people who are arguably stars have difficulties with “reality”, as SamuraiFrog notes, parsing Jessica Simpson’s new show. Maybe it’s the term “reality” in these unreal settings that’s the biggest irritant of all.