May 19, 2004
I don't care who wins American
Idol this year.
This may be a startling
admission, coming from a self-proclaimed 'quivering reality-TV
junkie,' but it's true. I don't care. I may
have been marginally interested, early in the season --
I found Scooter Girl oddly compelling, for example, and I've
always been a Fantasia fan, right from the
start -- but the show lost me as
soon as it changed from a talent competition into a Teen
People cover story (and as soon as poor delusional George Hung's
fifteen minutes of fame began to stretch into an hour and a half).
I just don't care anymore.
I don't care about The
Bachelor, either, or which vapid blonde Bachelor Jesse chooses
tonight in the most dramatic rose ceremony ever. (If it's
not going to be Trish, the only remotely interesting
person on the show this season, why bother tuning
in?) I don't care why "Playing It Straight" mysteriously vanished
from the airwaves, four episodes into the season. (Were they
gay? Were they straight? Who cares? They were ALL
wearing COWBOY HATS, forcryingoutloud.) I
don't care if there is a second season of "The Apprentice," or a third
season of "Average Joe," or a 43,897,621st season of "Extreme Fear
Factor Island Celebrity Mole Makeover."
Don't even get me started
on "The Swan."
The truth is that I've
felt very little emotional connection to most reality TV
programming this season. I've either watched a
show for fifteen minutes and decided immediately that this
wasn't for me ("The Apprentice," "Average Joe," "Superstar USA")
... or else I've watched for a few weeks but managed to
lose interest before the grand finale ("American Idol,"
"The Bachelorette," "The Bachelor"). In the case of at
least one new reality show -- the unutterably
execrable "Swan," in which women suffering from varying degrees of
emotional meltdown are given bazillion-dollar makeovers, only to
be told that they're still too ugly to
win a beauty pageant -- I've had to quit watching
because it left me feeling icky, inside and out, like I needed to
take a Lysol shower as soon as it
The single exception to all
of this reality-TV ennui has been "Survivor:
For confirmed reality-TV
addicts like me, "All Stars" was like The Super Bowl,
The Academy Awards and The Royal Wedding, all rolled into one.
It had everything: heroes, villians, romance, intrigue,
humor, pathos, betrayal ... even a little sexual
misconduct and drunken debauchery thrown in, just for
fun. (It sorta reminded me of the old Baby Boomer
Room ... except that most of the All-Stars were
sober. And single. And wearing clothes.) Plus there
were not one but two extremely satisfying
denouements at the end, including a surprise
on-camera marriage proposal and a second,
audience-awarded million dollar prize. As
far as David and I are concerned, it just doesn't get any
better than "All-Stars."
And that, of course, is
precisely the problem.
"All-Stars" was so good --
so compelling, so emotionally engaging, so much fun to watch, week
after week -- that it has basically spoiled us for anything
else. Now that it's over, everything else on TV seems like
just so much "According To Jim." It's like reading "The
Time Traveler's Wife" last year. Two paragraphs in, I knew I was
reading the best book I'd ever read ... quite possibly
the best book I'll ever read, for the rest of my
life ... so I deliberately read it as slowly as
possible, trying to make it last. One chapter, every couple of
days; two, if I got stuck taking the bus home
from work. Even so, the sad inevitable day arrived
when I reached the last page, and the best book I'd ever read was over
finally. For weeks afterward -- maybe months -- I was utterly
incapable of reading anything new. "The Time Traveler's Wife"
ruined me for other books, for a long, long time.
That's how it is
with "Survivor: All Stars." I'm ruined for other TV shows for
I don't think it's
permanent. The next round of regular "Survivor" is only four
after all. (And in the meantime I'll have "Big Brother" this
summer, which, although it has been known to suck, has
also been known to be lots of fun. See: the oh-so-satisfying
Downfall of The Three Amigos last summer.) And I
don't think there's anything wrong with having standards, even when
you're talking about something as stoopid and
frivolous and in-the-grand-scheme-of-things unimportant as
reality TV. If I didn't have standards, after all, I'd probably
be sitting in front of the TV tonight, watching Bachelor Jesse
"propose" to one or another of the vapid blonde Barbie dolls
... I'd see the new American Idol weeping into
her Ovaltine next week ... I'd witness the
crowning of the world's ugliest (and most conflicted) beauty queen.
And I'd be hating myself for
throw a rock?