Reality TV — The Cameraman

camermanAs I’ve said many times, even though I don’t watch it, I have no philosophical bitch with Reality TV.  It’s TV, so, as the man said “Here we are now: entertain us.”  And presumably, it does.  But have you ever wondered about the cameraman? (Yes, I realize sometimes they’re women, but we all know what we’re talking about.)  He’s the guy who has to do everything the Reality Star does — with one hand holding a camera.  This is nothing special if you’re Keeping up With the Kardashians but in the wild and woolly world of Reality TV, I imagine some gigs are tougher than others.

Ice Road Truckers – The camera follows a group of truck drivers in northern Canada and Alaska — in winter.  I’ve been to northern Canada, and the place is so full of nothing even Google doesn’t go there.  Calling it “tedious” is wildly optimistic.  The cameraman’s job is to film somebody driving a truck, hour after hour, through this white wasteland — on the off chance that something will go wrong.  That anything will go wrong.  Please, God!  Break something!  At kilometre 300, he can’t feel his bum anymore.  At kilometre 600, he’s convinced he’s trapped in The Matrix, and by kilometre 1000, he’s praying for a polar bear to come and eat him.  Nowhere in the history of entertainment has one person so completely wished for disaster to befall another human being than on the set of Ice Road Truckers.

Swamp People — The camera follows a group of ‘hunters” who find and kill alligators.  What possible enticement would convince anybody to go and film that?
Wanted:  Experienced camera person to travel to a disease-invested swamp, get into an itty-bitty boat with a couple of hillbillies, and film them attacking gigantic piss-off alligators.  Good balance an asset.  Lack of imagination a plus.  Malaria, typhus, cholera, hepatitis A, B and C, yellow fever and rabies shots required.  Preference given to orphans and idiots and anybody who hasn’t seen the movie Deliverance.

And the granddaddy of them all:

Deadliest Catch — The camera follows crab fishermen in the Bering Sea — in January.  Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations on the planet.  People die doing this stuff — frequently — when they’re holding on with both hands.  Imagine standing in the middle of an iceberg-cold ocean, pointing a camera at a 10 metre wave that’s about to drown you, the stupid little boat you’re standing on, and anyone else not smart enough to be on dry land.  What would you be thinking?  “Wow, those four years of film school are really going to pay off now!”

So, even though I don’t watch it, I tip my hat to Reality TV — if only for the person working the camera.  I’d pay money to eyeball that guy.

The Rise Of The Media Whore

kardashianIt’s pretty obvious that there’s nothing real about Reality TV.  It’s as carefully crafted as its scripted cousin.  The only difference is the actors are playing themselves.  So be it.  In the great scheme of things, the difference between Tori Spelling and Sansa Stark is minimal. (BTW, I have no philosophical bitch with Reality TV.  I don’t necessarily watch it, but I think it’s a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment — certainly as valid as the Game Show, The Cop Show and The Sit-Com.)  Unfortunately, Reality TV has one dreadful side effect — the media whore.

You’ll probably be shocked to know that the media whore was actually born on PBS, the squeaky clean Boy Scout of American broadcasting.  (No, it wasn’t Big Bird!)  In 1973, Public TV broadcast An American Family, a point-and-shoot chronicle of the Loud family — Bill, Pat and the kids.  Highbrow television being what it is, the series was called a documentary.  A rose by any other name….  Our society still had a modicum of dignity in those days, so it took a generation and the Europeans to push us over the edge of the Reality abyss.  In the 90s, Dutch TV came up with Nummer 28 the inspiration (“plagiarism” is such a hard word) for MTV’s The Real World.  From there, it was a slippery slope through Big Brother and American Idol to Paris Hilton, Phil Robertson and the High Priestess herself, Kim Kardashian.

The apologists dress these media whores up in all kinds of reasonable clothes, from the aforementioned documentary to straight comedy, to struggles with adversity and personal pain.  Yeah, right!  The truth is they are simply not content with Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame.  They don’t just like the camera, they lust after it.  And they’re willing to do anything to satisfy their narcissism.  They will sell themselves, their children, their dignity (Lance Loud invited the PBS cameras back to film his death.) and their very souls to get it.   But the scary thing is — the frightening core of this contemporary phenomenon is — if they are the whores, we are the clients.  We, the audience, are the Johns of their peek-a-boo prostitution.  In fact, we built the brothel, and every time the Internet bends, breaks or beats Obama’s record, we add on another room.

As anyone in the media will tell you — it’s all about the numbers.

Letterman And The Ladies

lettermanI know this is too soon — but I can’t believe everybody is still sucking up to Letterman.  These days, to hear the story, he was the best thing since sliced bread met peanut butter and jelly.  God, it’s like the guy died or something!  Let’s be honest: Letterman hasn’t been funny since Ronnie Reagan ruled the world, and even then, he wasn’t much more than a pumped-up smartass.  Plus, and this is the weird thing, nobody’s talking about what Dave did best.  He beat the system.  Anybody else would have been bounced out of the Ed Sullivan Theatre for half of what Letterman got away with.

There are not many Strictly Verbotens in the land of high end celebrity.  However, one of the strictest is rich and powerful old men cannot have sex with their younger, poor and powerless female employees.  At the very least, this is sexual harassment, and at the other end of the scale it’s something a whole lot slimier.  During his TV career, David Letterman crossed this line — more than once and for extended periods — and in 2009, when circumstances backed him into a corner, he finally admitted it — on national TV.  Strangely enough, there was no public outcry, no group came forward to demand justice for the women or even advocate their protection and nobody — nobody — even suggested Letterman might be held accountable for his actions.  In fact, nothing happened.  Wow!

But, let’s get real.  The reality is it’s very difficult to point out the sinner when he’s the one who has the pulpit.  In 2009, Letterman had a huge audience — every night — and some very powerful friends.  He had a sharp comedic tongue and a roomful of badass writers to back him up.  Plus, over the years, he’d demonstrated that being on the wrong side of David Letterman was not a place you wanted to be.  Actually, it’s no wonder no one ever accused him of anything.  Personally, I’m not that brave.

The result was he walked away from the scandal unscathed, the women were never heard of again, and now Letterman is retiring with all the accolades of the comic genius he never was.  The thing I don’t understand is why are people kicking each other out of the way to praise the guy when anybody else would have been fired six years ago?