We can attribute at least one thing to MTV as it turns 30 this week: “The Real World” may not have been the first reality show, but it was arguably the most groundbreaking. In it, you can find the blueprint for many of the reality formats that dominate today’s TV landscape.
It was a simple idea - put a group of strangers together, turn on the cameras and see what happens – that yielded an addictive, engaging result. The show became a sensation, a part of our cultural consciousness that gave Generation X a rallying point and a shared experience.
I can still rattle off the names of nearly every cast member from the first 10 seasons. I can tell you when and why that famous introduction sentence changed from “seven strangers” to “seven people.” I know when producers stopped casting people who lived in the city where the season took place, and when they started forcing the cast members to work together as well as live together.
It might still be summer, but a lot of people are already looking forward to the fall… and not just because we know there will be an NFL season now.
TV junkies are eagerly anticipating a different season: the lineup of new shows set to premiere over the next several months. Networks are trying to get a head start on building audiences, and it seems you can’t escape trailers or promos that tell you Show X is the one you don’t want to miss.
What keeps standing out to me is HOW these promotions are being run. Advertisers often have, at best, 30 seconds to present a new show in a way that will intrigue people enough to watch it. But it might take less than five seconds for us to decide a show isn’t worth our time.
I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of “Glee,” but I do watch the show, and I know a lot of the Gleeks out there are still reeling from news about some of their favorite McKinley High students.
Last week, executive producer Ryan Murphy announced that three of the show’s stars won’t be back for season 4. (We’ll leave aside the presumption that there will BE a season four).
Murphy said the reason behind the decision is that it would be unrealistic for student characters to stay on a show once their senior years come and go. (We’ll also leave aside the idea that “Glee” has EVER been too worried about realism.)
The news came out recently that “Terra Nova,” the new sci-fi series that’s set to premiere on Fox this fall, will only have a 13 episode season. This comes after plans to air the pilot back in May had to be scrapped.
The reason for the delay and shortened first season seems to be production issues, specifically that the show is REALLY expensive. Creating a CGI-dominated prehistoric world can do that.
It’s still entirely possible that “Terra Nova” will be a good show, but I’m not sure it can ever live up to expectations.
In the fall, I’ll need several advanced logarithms to figure out a plan to DVR all of the shows I’ll be watching. But right now, the TV landscape is a little more sparse.
That means there’s an opportunity to watch shows I normally might not make time for, like “Covert Affairs,” “Falling Skies” and “Wilfred.”
They’re not the greatest shows ever, but they’re entertaining enough to overlook some occasionally clunky dialogue and implausible/predictable plot points. And a large part of that willingness to dive into these shows is the fact that, honestly, there’s not a whole lot else on. (If you're saying to yourself, "Jordan, I thought this was supposed to be a critical blog. Why are you writing about shows you like? Where’s the hate?" I'm getting there...)
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Watching “Wipeout” is not an intellectual pursuit in which one strives to find deeper symbolism about the meaning of life and the evolution of society vis a vis the physical hardships perpetrated upon a group of well-meaning volunteers seeking fame and fortune.
“Wipeout” is basically an hour of fall-down-go-boom. And that hour is funnier than it has any right to be.
Yes, it is in many ways a rip-off of “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.” But it’s entertaining, often because of the visceral reaction that we have to seeing people innocuously get hurt. Why do you think “American’s Funniest Home Videos” lasted so long?
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