I know you're all dying to hear about Project Runway and Beauty and the Geek, but once again I'm going to have to leave you in suspense for a day or so. I just want to rant for a minute about how crazy the reality TV phenomenon is. I made fun of it so much at first, not even considering the fact that I had been watching The Real World for years, until I realized that about 95 percent of the TV I watch is after 8 p.m. and almost all of that is of the reality genre.
So today I was watching Oprah, one of the few non-reality shows I watch, and she was flipping out on James Frey, the author of "A Million Little Pieces", a book he claimed was a memoir of his experiences as a drug-addict.
Today, three months after Oprah had Frey on as a guest and added his "memoir" to her book club, the talk-show host had him on again--this time to confront him. As revealed by The Smoking Gun, Frey's story was, in large part, a fabrication. Naturally, Oprah reamed him out because no one messes with her. Hermes learned that the hard way.
What does this have to do with reality TV, you ask? Well, Oprah also had New York Times journalist Frank Rich on the show for the article he wrote about Frey's book and Oprah's subsequent reaction (I'd link you to the story but you have to be a member of the Times...if you are you should definitely check it out though, it's called "Truthiness 101," after a term coined by Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert).
So here they are, a media mogul, a New York Times journalist and, despite his choices, a best-selling author, and what comes out of Rich's mouth? "Look at reality TV. Its cast is somewhat scripted. You see Nick and Jessica as happily married and now they're divorced and they split the profits." This is a pretty big story and reality TV finds its way into the mix. We are so fascinated by the idea of true stories that a man who wrote a New York Times bestseller felt the need to put his own "reality" spin to what would have made a remarkable work of fiction.
Take, for example, the movies that have come out recently. Look at horror movies alone and you can see the trend. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror and The Exorcism of Emily Rose all claim to be based on real events. When a Stranger Calls comes to theaters soon as well, a movie based on a story made popular because of its believable presence in countless towns across the country.
Urban legends scare us because we feel like they could happen to us. Reality TV fascinates us because we could be a part of it. It might be scripted, just as Rich said, but it is an undeniable obsession and I have a feeling that I'm not the only one.
[Note: Forgive my mistake, I previously wrote that Colbert was the one on the show but I must have mixed up what Oprah was saying--thanks Emma!]