Reality TV—Yep!

March 7, 2012


Above: Sketches made of contestants on "Project Runway: All Stars." Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache in my 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia in-studio journal. (Or in this case, in-TV-Room journal.)  

If you don't like TV just stop reading right now. Shoo, go away. You're wrong, and wrong headed, but I'll never convince you, so shoo.

If you're still reading all I want to say today is that while there are some reality shows on TV that I loathe (all the housewives of "wherever" series) because there is so much vitriol and meanness, the shows which actually show people making things interest me.

Project Runway, Top Chef, Chopped, Mad Fashion, Face Off are current favorites. Sure there might be some drama included in these shows (in fact I think there is too much drama now in Top Chef and Project Runway so I might not be watching them any more). The producers encourage and engineer drama (and the more they have of it the sooner I stop following a show), but we do get glimpses of people making things in these shows, and I love that. I could watch that all day (without the drama of course).

Shows like The Next Iron Chef, where chefs of an established high calibre compete to be the Next Iron Chef, seem less prone to drama and there is more collegial behavior. I wish the housewives (from all the different cities) would watch a couple episodes of that show and see how to behave.

There are other "reality shows" like American Pickers (which is sort of like Antiques Road Show with travel and a lot of dirt and grime) where you see interesting people from all walks of life and learn things about odd things—Oddities is like this too. (Both of these shows don't really have any interpersonal drama of the angry sort, though in American Pickers sometimes Frank and Mike tease and test each other.)

If you can't sleep late at night, all of the shows I've mentioned that I watch are all good for one thing—sketching.

OK, OK, I enjoy Tabatha Takes Over. She's Australian; she's bossy; there is a lot of drama some evenings and it can be distressing. I'll even tell myself, nope, no more—but I love Tabatha, as much as I enjoyed watching the early Gordon Ramsay Restaurant Nightmares. So if you want to watch Jersey Shore or one of the Housewives I'm not going to rant at you. I have my own guilty pleasures. I seem them as a sort of parable—where, in the case of Tabatha, common sense and sound business practices win out. 

OK, OK, and even though the shows have been heavily edited there's still enough information to profile the people, and that's just plain fun and good practice. Start gathering micro expressions today.

(And yes the title is a nod to Storage Wars, which sadly has become to "angry.")

  1. Reply

    I love My Kitchen Rules which is currently airing in the evenings here. I haven’t heard of Tabatha Takes Over. I don’t think we get it here. I used to watch an English reality show that was similar tho…Mary Queen of Shops. She’s a marketing consultant and would go in to help a failing business prosper but the owners were often so set in their ways that they would rear up against any changes she would want to make which made it quite a challenge. I loved it!

    I’ve never thought to sketch from the shows though. Definitely something to consider. 🙂

    • Caroline
    • March 7, 2012

    I have to confess to a sneaky enjoyment of Border Security, the most popular reality show here in Australia. Its about the lengths people go to to beat customs and quarantine either at airports or through the mail. Its very black and white because the good guys always win, but there is always one case on there where you feel sorry for the person who gets caught out. New Zealand has a similar show, so I wonder if these programs are found around the world? Its a good antidote for all the CSI-type shows around.

  2. Reply

    Did you ever see that artist reality show? I think it is called “Work of art: the next great artist.” I saw one episode where they paired the artists up into teams, had them create “street art” and then they brought a bunch of people in to give their opinions. It was a really dumb show and I have to question anyone for wanting to go on a television art competition. That said, I do like some reality tv. I kind of like Dog the Bounty Hunter.

  3. Reply

    Caroline, I’d love to try it but I’m afraid that I would be horrible ill the entire show, worried that someone would bring in fruit flies or something else on forbidden agricultural products! And then kill all sorts of crops and an entire industry. (My imagination always works this way.)

    I haven’t seen anything like that here. We have at least one border patrol show that I know of but I don’t watch it because it seems to just be about keeping Mexicans out of the country and I find all that very depressing.

  4. Reply

    Carolyn I did watch the “Work of Art” shows. I watched both seasons they’ve had so far. I watched the first season because there was a kid from MN on it and because I typically watch an entire set of shows the first time it comes out. I watched the second season because someone I knew was interested in it and after the first show I wanted Kimia (sp?) to win so badly (and she did) that I kept watching, but it made me so angry on so many levels (don’t get me started) that I vowed I would never watch again. There are a lot of stupid things about that show, and one of them is the judges saying people need to stretch themselves and try media they haven’t before, and then on other episodes coming down on people when they do just that and fail.

    I think there are a lot of reasons people would go on that show, however, or any reality show. If you are obnoxious enough you get more screen time, because that’s what the producers want because they think that translates into conflict that viewers will tune into. But for me conflict like that is so artificial that it turns me off. I just want to see people making stuff.

    But if you are obnoxious enough or in the case of one young woman on that season, always ready to take off your shirt, you’ll get lots of camera time and camera time translates to national exposure which translates to a higher name recognition which translates to more sales, which translates to a better career in art.

    I totally understand the impetus. It’s the same on any of the doing things shows, like the chef shows and project runway. If you get some TV time people will see you and that will be good for you.

    Then there is the phenomenon of people wanting to be on more and more reality shows. We see this in the Survivor alumni and in Project Runway. I think after a point, especially if you come off as a jerk, enough is enough, but they want to do more, and in our culture any publicity is good publicity.

    I know the show Dog the Bounty Hunter, but haven’t watched it. I got the sense there would be too much conflict in that show.

    I do like the show about the exterminator in the south. I can’t recall his name. There is conflict, but it’s with snakes, aardvarks, raccoons and such. I can handle that.

  5. Reply

    Billy the exterminator, I just thought of that and think I’m right.

  6. Reply

    The conflict in Dog the Bounty Hunter is more along the lines of them catching the criminals and not so much with the interpersonal stuff. There is no making stuff involved though, but their outfits and hairdos are very creative!

    Yes, I’m sure being obnoxious and getting a lot of screen time is a good strategy for publicity, but it has nothing to do with being a good artist, which is what kind of annoyed me when I watched the artist reality show. But I guess it’s true, as you say, that it is the same concept on all of these shows. I would be interested to see how many of the contestants are still working as artists a few years from now, after their notoriety has worn off. I do like Project Runway from time to time because I like to see them actually constructing the garments.

  7. Reply

    Carolyn, you’re making me laugh. Have you been to an art opening lately? being obnoxious seems to be high on the list of many artists these days and a bid for celebrity of whatever type in the art community! It’s something to sell.

    Sadly it seems that the folks who win project runway don’t always have full careers. Christian S. (Can’t remember his name, “it’s fierce”) seems to be doing well. But then I don’t follow fashion enough to know.

    I will check out the hairdos on Dog!

  8. Reply

    No, I’ve never been to one. It would freak me out too much because I have social anxiety. But I believe you. I don’t think I would fit in with that crowd at all.

  9. Reply

    Carolyn, well that explains your disbelief at the behavior you see on the show. It’s pretty much par for the course for a certain group of “creative” folks.

    Go to the zoo and sketch instead of an art opening. I do.

  10. Reply

    Carolyn, I missed reading the bit about social anxiety because I was typing too fast. The zoo is probably not a good idea for you either. But you can go out and sketch somewhere quiet like a botanical garden or conservatory where people won’t bother you. That’s a much better use of your time than going to an art opening with oddly behaving people!

  11. Reply

    Roz: SMALL TOWN SECURITY-check it out.
    It is my painting soundtrack late at night.

  12. Reply

    Ellen I will find some episodes to watch. Thanks for the heads up. I watched. I’m worried with “security” in the title there might be too much conflict for me. I really like less drama and more making of things—which means I have to actually watch to see the things being made, and not just listen. I like silence when I’m painting, I don’t even play music. But I’m always interested in seeing what people in different professions are up to. I realize I’d be the only one watching “Copyeditor: No Red Pencils”—”Whew I just finished that chapter, now to sort the diagrams.”

  13. Reply

    I understand completely. I do the silence usually myself and only recently left the TV on….and got hooked when I was doing my watercolor before bed. I wish there would be a reality show: THE FUGITIVE-eliminating the bad boys form yer palette!”
    I am just killing time till PORTLANDIA returns! PICKLE THAT! HEEE HEE.

  14. Reply

    I can hardly wait for Portlandia! I’ve been putting birds on things all summer!

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