Wasted weekend or craft study? You decide

I’m a TV snob. I say – with pride – that I never watch reality TV.


Don’t you dare toss my favorite laundry basket!

Not anymore.

Long story, bottom line: I was trapped for hours in a room over the weekend. There was nothing but a TV with limited channels. I was force fed reality TV. Or, you could say I gorged.

Honestly, reality TV is like eating potato chips. You can’t stop. Just one more show; then another and another. The bag is gone and all you can do is swear you’ll exercise and eat kale tomorrow or, in this case, watch ten hours of PBS.

Still, writers should watch this stuff purely to study use of quirk, characterization, and unintended humor.

The shows I enjoyed endured:

Hospital drama

I can’t remember the title; something like Real ER! The gross factor is huge. And the producers do the unthinkable: they run shows where people actually die. I assumed the kid would make a miraculous recovery. Nope. He died for real on TV. The nurse rolls in the dad, in his hospital bed because he’s also in critical condition. He gets one last chance to hold his son’s hand and say I love you. The family – and medical staff – let the crew tape the failed resuscitation scene. Family members cried, the doctors cried, I wept.


I’ve heard of “Hoarders.” Without seeing the show, I wondered how the producers could run the same plot every week: Mom hoards, and family members try to unhoard Mom.

In the show I watched, workers shoveled Mom’s junk from her house, which smelled so bad, and had so many roaches, the pest control guy puked in the yard. Then the daughter found a mummified (and formerly poisonous) copperhead snake in Mom’s trashed bedroom. Mummified! The thing had been dead so long it was now a long, crunchy S-shaped mummy snake. I loved it.

Bridal shows.

So many bridal shows. I saw three variations in one day.

First show: Brides must choose between a family “heirloom” dress or a splashy modern gown selected by a designer. During this bridal ordeal, Dad tears up as he remembers his beloved mother, who would’ve been so happy to see her favorite granddaughter wear the gown that ushered in her 70-year marriage.

But that little snot picked the new dress because of its “ruching,” a detail she’d clearly never heard until the designer explained its importance. I predict divorce within six years.

Second show: Brides go to an expensive appointment-only store, find the dress of their dreams, and they have to convince someone to pick up the $2,800 tab. Not including shoes!

Third show: Producers pick four brides who don’t know each other. The brides attend each other’s weddings, rank them, and critique their cocktail hours, the dinner, the dresses and the wedding’s theme. (One theme: alcohol. Not kidding.) Apparently these criteria make or break a marriage.

All this brings me to questions of craft. How do producers hook and keep an audience with the same plot? How do they convince the “stars” to embarrass themselves so publicly? How do they edit hours of tape into a few essential minutes?

Study and learn. Or just watch. I won’t tell. It’s our little secret.

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