High Drama, Blurred Reality

Modern sitcoms don’t interest me in the least. I don’t watch them. As a kid, I religiously followed the adventures of my favorite TV families, the Huxtables of The Cosby Show and the Keatons on Family Ties. As a teenager, I would become more than a little upset if forced to miss out on the antics of my northern neighbors in Degrassi Junior High. And these days, I’ll happily sit down and watch reruns of The Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prairie. What can I say? I’m old school.

I claim complete ignorance when it comes to today’s set of popular scripted TV shows. I have no idea why everybody loved Raymond so damn much. For all I know, Without a Trace is about a freehand comic book artist. When I see the skinny Desperate Housewives on what seems to be every magazine cover in America, I think, “Yeah, they look desperate all right. Desperate for a sandwich.”

If I’m going to watch someone starve, I want it to be on Survivor, my favorite show ever. Although the environment of this show is scripted, the human drama isn’t. I can’t get enough of the squabbles, the tears, the victory dances, and the moaning that commences when the players are rewarded with food. The hunger, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation only add to the tensions of the competitors, making for the ultimate soap opera in which the characters aren’t quite as well-groomed.

The past two seasons of Survivor, in Vanuatu and Palau, respectively, were some of the best to date, with fantastic casts of compelling people who did not fail to deliver the high drama I crave. Who needs CSI when Palau winner Tom Westman is on the beach murdering a shark? What’s the point of Law and Order when Vanuatu victor Chris Daugherty is committing crimes of the betrayal against his best pals in the game? Why watch Will and Grace when gay hairdresser Coby and his best girl Janu are bonding under a palm tree? Survivor delivers a complete package of the sex, violence, and scandal necessary for great TV.

I’m well aware of how unrealistic it is, though. Reality is a ridiculous nametag for TV shows like The Apprentice, The Amazing Race, Survivor, Fear Factor, and The Bachelor(ette). The situations portrayed on these shows rarely resemble anything most of us will ever experience. I mean, when was the last time you dated 25 people at once? Or snacked on an elephant penis? Or received a job offer from Donald Trump? And although participants on these shows are often rewarded handsomely for their efforts, I have to admit that I’m content to sit on the sidelines and watch them get their hands dirty.

So if you want to know which scripted dramas kick the most ass, go ask someone who knows. My viewing schedule is full of hirings, firings, evictions, eliminations, snuffed torches, and marriage proposals that rarely lead to a trip down the aisle. What’s not to love?

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