Summer television sucks. I’m catching up on some reading, for sure, but sometimes, in the evening, I’m just tired and I need a little mindless entertainment. But I feel like what’s going on right now brings ‘mindless’, as the guy on Mad TV says, to a “ho, nubba lubba!” (translation for those of you who haven’t seen it – “a whole ‘nother level”).
So what I am known to do is watch several shows at once. I do not have picture in picture. And yet, my feeling is, watching shows like this, I am more than capturing the essence of all of them in this limited viewing style.
Last night, I watched Wife Swap and Posh Comes to America at seven, followed by Extreme Makeover and Age of Love at eight.
By nine, I was suicidal, but too tired to do anything about it. At this point, I actually picked up and finished a book, bleary as I was.
Read it. Eighty brilliant pages about Vietnam was far less torturous than the combined programming I had on earlier.
Okay, so but let me talk about these shows a bit. I was drawn into the Posh show by the commercials and by my utter wonder at the apparent obsession they have in Britain with Posh and Becks. Basically, she comes to America a few weeks ahead of her husband and kids to settle in, buy a house and find a manicurist. It was hard to tell what of this show was meant to be cheeky and what wasn’t. She had a certain charm, I’ll admit (she does a fine impression of a blowup doll), but the name Posh seemed to fit. She lounges by the pool in heels. Her two best friends are her hairstylist and her makeup artist. But the whole show was so contrived that it was hard to tell if there was any real glimpse of her at all. All I could really latch onto about the whole show was the utterly foreign lifestyle. Hideously garish twelve million dollar houses, paparazzi, and especially, a group of post-middle-aged and multiply reconstructed/hair-extended Beverly Hills ladies who invite her over with a welcome lunch. It was during this segment that I learned of Posh’s affection for the term ‘major’, as in (imagine Posh accent) “These ladies had ‘may-juh’ lipstick on!” (in fact, it was really their lips that were major, if you ask me). I really don’t know what to make of any of this. I don’t know what my life would be like if I had that kind of money. It just seems really hard to imagine that it would be anything like that.
So I flipped between that and Wife Swap. Okay, I actually like Wife Swap. One of the things I love about it, as with many reality shows, is imagining what it would be like if I were on that show, and in this case, trying to figure out what would be the sort of opposite of our life, who they’d swap us with. Which would maybe be: very rich and indulgent, very rigid and religious? We’re not super neat or sloppy, we’re certainly arty, but we’re not very extreme anything, which helps for the drama on the show. And yet, all of the families they choose seem so extreme that it’s not often I can root for one over the other because they’re usually both so stuck in their weirdnesses that I don’t like either of them. Last night they had a family whose son was super into motocross even though he had hideous burns on his back from an accident and they more or less ignored their daughter, matched up with a ‘pagan’ family who ‘worshipped’ their mother, the goddess. Ben and I are, it’s safe to say, the opposite of both of these families. Maybe we would need two whole families to swap with.
Okay, and then there’s Extreme Makeover, which is almost pointless to watch until the ‘reveal’ which comes in the last five minutes, and Age of Love, arguably the most shameful of all of last night’s programming, a dating show in which a 30 year old man chooses between a group of women, half in their twenties and half in their forties. I have my own reasons for tuning in to this show, and am obviously rooting for one of the forties (not that this guy is so great or so bad), but it should come as no surprise that there’s no real depth to the exploration of this issue, if there is one, it’s as if they’re pitted against each other, so that only the vaguest commonalities come through – your twenties can very frequently suck, and your forties can be a time when you really know who you are. All of the women, younger and older, are basically attractive, and they made a point to pick especially ‘hot’ older women, but. But. It’s edited to be a sort of younger vs. older, typically catfighty kind of thing whereas in real life, I have women friends of all ages, and certainly there are differences to the extent that I’m not the same person I was when I was twenty-five, thank god, but the kind of people I hang around with tend to assume that we’re all individuals on our own individual timelines. I know, I know. I know this kind of show would never be deep. And yet I retain the hope that I can glean some little glimpse of something real.
Don’t ask me to give up TV. There’s 30 Rock and The Office and what else, I’m sure there’s something. But I need to cut back even more. (Yes, I said, ‘even more’. I watch less than I once did, believe it or not.) I don't really want to quit. I just want to be a social viewer.