Reality TV Has Become a Parody of Itself

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In 2008, the show satire 30 Rock aired an episode called “MILF Island”. Mocking how crazy reality TV can be, he follows in the footsteps of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) as he rejoices in his new hit, a reality show based on a cheeky acronym about beautiful mothers. “He has sex, lies, puberty, betrayal, relay races,” says Jack, radiantly. “Illa MILF it reflects the drama of human experience. ” Illa MILF it was a good joke. Precious too: 13 years later, HBO Max aired a reality show based on a cheeky acronym about hot men called FBOY Island. Life had imitated art in the dumbest way possible.

As a television critic Alison Herman pointed out earlier this year, comparing something to a fake 30 Rock The program has become “an abbreviation for surreal, dystopian and painfully desperate television programming” that “holds up pretty well in the age of transmission.” She is right. HBO Max isn’t the only real-time streaming service that has the absurd taste of the show 30 Rock writers could invent. In most cases, unscripted television is cheaper to produce than scripted, so streamers looking for quantity have the green light. Over the past three years, Netflix has pushed for a high-concept reality list, including Marriage or Mortgage (people choose between arranging a wedding or owning a house), Sexy beasts (people wear prostheses of creatures made to disguise their face while lying down), and Is it cake?, a show where people guess whether an object is a cake or not. It also hosts a series of romantic shows by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, which include The ultimatum, a “social experiment” where half of a romantic couple forces the other to marry or break up with them. Individually, many of these shows are ridiculous enough to be as clichéd as Illa MILF. But they are the reality of reality, part of the greatest 30 Rock-ification of television without a script.

Now, the first big wave of reality TV hits in the early 2000s was not exactly free of high-concept premises and profoundly sober executions. Consider Joe Millionaire, where women competed to date a wealthy construction worker. O The Swan, where women competed to see who could be more handsome conventionally by having plastic surgery. These programs were released in 2003 and 2004. Television reached new levels of depravity in 2007, when Kid Nation he dropped children on a ranch and filmed them killing chickens and hurting themselves. Nasal voyeurism is embedded in the DNA of the genre.

But the era of streaming has acted as an accelerator of absurdism, prompting creators to make increasingly complicated, specific and strange premises. The era of streaming has resulted in increasingly granular entries into the canon of reality and a surprisingly long afterlife for niche reality programs from the basic cable. A new rule of thumb for the internet might be: if you think about it, there’s probably already a reality show about it, especially if you’re thinking about truckers. (There are so many programs about truckers.) Now there’s a subgenre of Netflix reality programming dedicated to watching people tidy up their homes; another is about renovating holiday rental properties. Anything, it seems, can be a reality show. Ferreria? Reality show. Blown glass? Reality show. Flower sculpture? Reality show. Being awake for 24 hours and then having to do things? Reality show. Chocolate makers? Reality show. The children’s game where you show that the floor is lava? Somehow also a reality show. The Discovery + streaming service is based on this type of show, including a call Celebrity help! My house is delighted, which is a spin-off of British celebrities from a program about ordinary people with haunted houses. I haven’t seen it, but I don’t recognize any celebrity names on IMDb.

I’ve only seen a fraction of a snippet of all the reality TV available to air right now. A full gender assessment could, at this point, be physically impossible for a person to carry out in a lifetime, even if they had nothing else to do. But even with my limited survey, I can say this: these shows are more tired when novelty replaces ingenuity, when the 30 Rock of all this is all that really exists. Despite his splattered clothing, Sexy beastsfor example, it was just boring. Marriage or Mortgage he committed the sin of being immoral i without humor. For successful franchises, spin-offs can offer declining returns; without the power of the sangfroid star of the main cast members like Christine Quinn, Sunset sale spin-off Vend Tampa it is full of glamor. However, there is the product of algorithm-induced overconfidence.

Still, this new wave has some gems, which are distinguished by their joy. Both are in the joke and more than in the joke. Netflix I nailed it! is the best example of a show with that kind conscience. The premise is made of reverse engineering from a meme about cooking disasters: contestants who are not particularly good at cooking should try to recreate cakes made in a short period of time, with good-looking results. horrible almost evenly. Incompetence is the fist line, but it’s not petty. No one is expected to be good at this. The tone of the show is as light as the meringue, but it has an open and absurd kick. At times, contestants seem to have come out of the street while host Nicole Byer greets them kindly. It has more in common with the alternative comedy of The Eric Andre show o Tim and Eric, great show, great job! that with something like that The Great British Baking Show o Picat. There are cartoon sound effects, awkward pauses and a general feeling of celebrating the grotesque. Unlike the dirty creations that your contestants create, I nailed it! in the end he takes out his strange soufflé.

Sometimes this game includes adjusting to the conventions of reality shows. Sociologist Danielle Lindemann, who recently wrote a book on reality shows and culture, says she has noticed that “reality shows are more visible as reality shows” in this recent series of new and back programs. I nailed it !, for example, he transforms his backstage staff into recurring characters, especially assistant director Wes Bahr, who gets off the wings whenever Byer summons him. There is barely a fourth wall to break in the first place. And this hug of the artificial is notoriously not limited to comic cooking programs. Hulu’s The Kardashians, a brilliant news commercial for several Kardashian-Jenner business ventures, is most interesting when it offers a vision of plausibility within its polished world. In a recent episode, Kim Kardashian tells Kanye West that she now has permission to recognize camera operators and starts chatting with them from the fist. (If only the show had more of that and fewer arguments about Kendall Jenner not getting one Vogue cover.) I wonder how far we are from watching a reality show on a reality show, or even a reality show on a reality show on a reality show. Perhaps we will continue to get atomized reality franchises with progressively more baroque premises forever, until the current harvest looks positively picturesque.

Or we may not have a chance to reach such a ridiculous goal. It’s been a difficult 2022 for Netflix. It is still the most dominant streamer, but the number of subscribers has dropped, along with the share price. Layoffs abound. There is just too much television. The green light days of too many shows can be near a pause, if not an end. But quality control will kill Illa MILF mentality? Or will the search for the show above all else, no matter how much the lowest common denominator, feed on the prestigious television scene, destroying costly script changes in favor of cheaper reality shows? Imagine: an archipelago of MILF islands, one for every possible eye. The drama of human experience, indeed.

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