Confessions Of A Remote Hog: Realism Bites

The truth is stranger than fiction.

At least that is what they say. Of course “they” say a lot of stuff and most of it is utter crap. In reality, if truth was stranger than fiction I’d probably set my couch up in front of my window and watch the “truth” that walks by it everyday letting their dogs crap in my yard instead of my TV. Yes, sometimes that truth is strange, but I have yet to see any truth that is nearly as strange as that Aqua Teen Hunger Force show on Cartoon Network. Have you ever seen that show? Jeez. What the hell is that thing? Meatballs solving crimes. Now that’s strange.

I don’t get “realism.” in TV. I just don’t. It’s the same way that I just don’t get NASCAR. What’s so interesting about cars driving? If it was so great than why aren’t there bleachers on the side of the PA Turnpike? Yet, shows are often lauded by critics as “gritty and realistic.” Why the hell would I want to watch that? I get enough reality everyday at work, when I get home I want a bit of fantasy.

Now, I am not talking about reality TV. If there is anything on TV that is the furthest from reality it is reality TV. Do I really believe that the 18 contestants on The Apprentice are the countries best and brightest business minds? Nope. Do I really believe our favorite castaways are actually “Surviving” on a deserted island? Nope. Reality TV is about as real as John Kerry’s chances of getting France to help out in the war in Iraq without bribing them with lucrative oil contracts.

What I am talking about is realism in dramatic TV. Producers often try to “hype” up their shows as a realistic slice of life. NYPD Blue had a huge campaign telling America that this was what it was really like to be a cop in New York. Mad About You was supposed to emulate the early married life of people in America. How many times did I hear, “Oh, I love Mad About You, it’s just like my life.” Then turn the damn TV off and spend time watching your spouse. I watch TV to escape from the doldrums of everyday life, not to be reminded about how my girlfriend likes to nag me to pick up some milk on the way home from work.

These realism campaigns are basically just an after affect of shows taking themselves too seriously. Shows like NYPD Bluie are nothing like the real life of a New York City detective. These shows are just a fantasy, grounded in a basis of reality. In the end they just set themselves up for the “debunkers” who attack them for any break in reality or misapplied notion. You see these people in all the message boards, or in the form of critics of TV and in print. “Oh, that just doesn’t make any sense.” “Oh, that would never happen.” These realism-police will jump all over a program for any liberty a show takes. Any stretching of a legal precedent in Law & Order. Any misapplied statute on The West Wing. Any sketchy diagnosis on ER. These realism kill joys jump all over these like George Bush does a financial contribution from a big oil company (got to stay fair and balanced.)

So here’s my message to these watchtowers of continuity. Shut the hell up. Yeah, I’m talking to you. I don’t want to know that Dr. Carter mispronounced the name of some experimental new cancer drug or that Jack McCoy misquoted CPL1432.88 in the judicial code. It’s just not important. Television is not realistic and shouldn’t be mistaken for it. Television is about entertainment and entertainment alone. Don’t rip me out of my fantasy world in order to make your self feel superior. So the next time you sit behind me in the movie theater and Vin Diesel jumps from the thirteenth story on his dirt bike and lands safely, I don’t need you to explain to me why he just violated 10 laws of physics. If you actually showed up at a Vin Diesel movie and expected him not to over act and push the envelope of the possible, then you need a does of reality.

The best new show on TV right now is Lost. One of my favorite things about Lost is that the show couldn’t care less about what is realistic or not. I recently read some postings on a message board about the show and there was this guy going on and on about how unrealistic this show is. He was talking about how technically the plane would never get that far off course. He talked about how structurally a plane would never break apart in the manner portrayed. Then he went on and on about how unrealistic it would be that after the plane crashed that an engine would be still be running with enough power to suck a man through it. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is a show that has a polar bear running around a tropical island and you’re complaining about it not being realistic. Lost is a fantasy, an escapist fantasy where you get to watch some incredibly attractive people stuck on and island being terrorized by some unknown monster, and you’re analyzing it’s technical realism. That’s about as ridiculous as Ralph Nadar’s announcement that he doesn’t think he’s going to carry any states in the presidential election.

The other new show that is getting accolades is Boston Legal. I have yet to check out what the fans have been saying bout this show, but I know the day will come where Denny Crane or Alan Shore will be criticized for missing some important legal point. It probably already has. Yet, this show is just as much of a fantasy as Lost. Any show where Monica Potter has to enlist the help of another women to flirt with a man because she’s just not “sexy” enough is a fantasy in my book. If there are people out there who actually believe that there are law firms out there that operate in this manner, than they need a healthy does of something and it’s not reality. Boston Legal is going to be a great show filled with great looking and acting people, but be ready to suspend reality and just enjoy.

That’s the trick people. Just enjoy. Don’t get to caught up in the minutia. Let the shows entertain you. If you find a show enjoyable, by all means watch it, even if most people think it’s crap. I know I have watched a lot of crap in my day that caused my friends to just shake their head. I can’t tell you the number of times my friends in college got annoyed with me because I wouldn’t head out to the bar on Friday night until after 9 because Sliders was on at 8PM. All my “hard” science friends with majors in things like physics and biology tried to tell me that the physics of the show just didn’t work. I didn’t care. I was a Political Science major and us Poli Sci guys new that the truth isn’t important, it’s all in how you spin it.

News and Notes:

So who is the most in demand new television star? Rev. Al Sharpton! The most interesting party of this droll and dull election season was Reverend Al. His performances in the Democratic Primary Debates just made great television. While his statements where often inflammatory, inaccurate and self serving, they were always entertaining. Televisions executives took notice. Reverend Al recently made a small cameo appearance of the series premiere of Boston Legal speaking on behalf of a black girl who felt she was unjustly robbed of her lead role in a the musical Annie. Now, Reverend Al will be the host of the new Spike TV reality show, I Hate My Job, where people will quit there job and spend a predetermined amount of time searching for their dream job. Sharpton’s role will be as a motivator and career councilor. You can read the Spike TV press release here.

In a fluke of scheduling luck, Kirk Cameron was able to get time off from his busy schedule shooting Left Behind movies and Alan Thicke took a break from his various celebrity appearances to shoot the latest Growing Pains movie titled: Growing Pains 2: Home Equity. It seems in this movie installment the Seaver kids go on a mission to sabotage their parents attempts to sell the family home. Hopefully this time they will be able to fit in the famous catch phrase, “What you talking about Ben?” You can catch this show Saturday at 8PM Eastern time on ABC.

According to this report in The Futon Critic NBC is seeking to produce a sequel to 10.5, last years earthquake disaster miniseries. The series hopes to start off from last years ending with part of California floating in the Pacific Ocean. This time it’s supposed to include erupting volcanoes and hurricanes as agfter effects of the California mega quake. Sort of sounds like current events more than a work of fiction.

The Dead Zone is set top start production next month on their fourth season, which has been given an 22 episode commitment by USA. In order to prepare for this increased burden they’ve brought on 2 new producers, Jack LoGiudice (“Resurrection Blvd.,” “Street Time”) in an executive producer role and Tommy Thompson (“Dark Angel”) as a co-executive producer. The pedigree of these producers should add to the darker storylines that this show seems to be trending towards, especially after this summers splendid but way to short season.

Well, the debates are over. John Kerry had the corniest zinger of the night talking about how W. lecturing him about fiscal responsibility is like Tony Soprano lecturing him about Law & Order. I think Tony would be an excellent advisor to either of these campaigns. Maybe he can teach these guys how to actually answer the questions they were asked. The worst part of the debates, at least for entertainment sake, is the exclusion of the third party candidates. I recently watched the Pennsylvania Senatorial debate which included all four candidates. If you think Arlen Spector’s single bullet theory was wacky, you should have checked out this Libertarian lady.