Last week I spent a couple of days in bed, recovering from some surgery. Maybe it was my narcotic induced haze, but I feel like I experienced the worst of America while watching daytime TV. I found myself in a routine of flipping from channel to channel, with increasing desperation, astounded at what I found.
Firstly, what is this obsession with heavy people? Does it somehow make us feel better and justify that next donut? I watched Heavy, Too Fat for 15, Ruby, I Used To Be Fat and Ton Of Love, where I watched a morbidly obese man battle to climb four steps to see the upstairs living room in his house that he had never been in before. He had to drive around the house to get there. I am not kidding. Why are we filming this? Is it because we’re rooting for them, or we want them to fail? I truly can’t decide.
My biggest fascination is with Hoarders, and it’s even more in-depth partner, Hoarders: Buried Alive. Apparently there is no casting issue there, as show after show reveals these people who are quite literally buried inside their homes, underneath mounds of boxes and ceramic bowls and stuffed animals. Fascinating! I admit, I gagged a little at the Animal Hoarders, like the man who hoarded bunnies. They were in his walls. I couldn’t tear myself away. At the root? People felt discarded, their collections of old pill boxes gave them security, and their gatherings of plastic bags replaced friends and family. So sad. And even sadder that hours of film show the attempt to chip away at this disorder that is so bizarre and chaotic to the outsider and yet so in order to them. And if you ever wondered what happend to Tempestt Bledsoe (yes I Googled the spelling) from the Cosby Show? Nope, she’s not a hoarder. She’s the new host of the Style Network’s Clean House: simply a glossy version of Hoarders where her accomplice Niecy Nash easily snaps her fingers and uh-uh-girlfriends’ our hoarder with the promise of a new washer and updated avo green walls.
And then we have Intervention and My Strange Addiction, where we are introduced to people who eat toilet paper and glass. Oh yum. And sleep with their hair dryers. I’m not making this up. More real, is Intervention, with it’s predictable plot and unfortunately even more predictable outcomes, it shows the deep and gritty side of addiction. Like the girl who was huffing spray cans of computer duster. How does one even discover that high? And the most saddening part of all: we sit and wait with bated breath for the story of abuse, abandonment or the continuation of a circle of addiction that could probably be traced back to their ancestors.
Yet I can’t really decide what’s worst: the obese and addicted, or the despicable creatures of the Real Housewives series. At least the addicted are somewhat treatable. These ladies, I’m afraid, are not. With their outrageously petty arguments and Restylane bloated faces, these are the fodder of my nightmares. From Miami to Beverly Hills, including the queens of Orange County, there doesn’t seem to be a good egg among them. And more bizarre, that they get spinoff shows, like the unbearably large jawed and loud mouthed Bethenny who gets knocked up, married and pops out a baby, all in Jimmy Choos. And guess what. Ding ding, you win. Abusive childhood, doesn’t talk to mom, and prattles on about her husband’s bedroom skills in front of his mother, whose frozen smile Bethenny perceives to be secret delight. The woman was mortified! Perhaps old Bethy should bring that up in her filmed therapy sessions where her shrink says deep things like, “You’re happy” and skinny Beth says, “I’m happy”. She’s making millions for that. Skinny and smart!
Toddlers and Tiaras: please, someone call child services. Giving kids that many Pixie Sticks and glasses of Coke certainly must be illegal. What do these parents think when they see themselves on screen? Surely they have to be ashamed? How about on Outrageous Kid Parties? Don’t look to it for inspiration. It’s one of the worst examples of badly scripted “reality” TV, with poorly planned plots, and disgusting behavior. And that’s just the adults. When you’re done pondering that, please tell me how, how, how a bunch of pregnant teenage girls get put on the covers of top grossing magazines as if they were rock stars? Is this what we’re teaching our children it takes to be famous? Why was Liam Witt not on the cover of People? A brilliant kid who led by example? But no, we revere delinquent teenagers.
If you’re looking for reality, Our America with Lisa Ling makes like a documentary, with the down to earth yet impeccably glossy Lisa chatting on beautifully colored film with sex offenders and faith healers. Such honesty. Such deep journalism. Such exploitative television under the guise of education. Granted, I have yet to watch an episode, but I’ve got to think that it’s all about ratings. That the TV exec’s decision to expose us to the horrors that lurk must be because they know it’s a big money machine, not because they think that we can save society. And believe me, I’m the last one to criticize commercialism. I’m it’s biggest fan. But what are we learning and what are we teaching? Where is the hope? Is it in the cooking shows, or the soap operas? In the sitcoms (thanks Charlie Sheen) or the entertainment reports? Where are our heroes? Are these our superstars? Are these our role models? By putting these people on TV are we actually making them something to aspire to?
Did I get anything out of it? Once the depression wore off, I scrubbed my house top to bottom (thanks to Hoarders), truly examined my love of caffeine (Intervention) and questioned whether I’ll ever have Botox again (Real Housewives). I also wondered whether I should move the entire family to a remote Caribbean island far, far from a television. Perhaps. But in the meantime, I’m not planning on flipping TV channels for a long while.