Tuesday, July 6, 2010

27. Reality TV

Do you watch "Reality" TV? I do. Unabashedly. I have my couple (dozen) favorites: "The Bachelor" and its not-so-riveting corollary "The Bachelorette," "Project Runway," "Design Star," "Top Chef" among them (Random Stock Tip #5: buy stock in ABC and Bravo).

In fact a great punishment for my children when they are misbehaving is to say to them, "That's it! We will not be watching any more 'Chuggington' or 'Electric Company'! We are watching 'Top Chef' now!" They panic and immediately straighten right out. It's kind of magical, actually. I highly recommend it.

What I don't understand is how this term "Reality" is bandied about. Tell me exactly what is "real" about making a dress out of lettuce and a shower curtain? Or what is "real" about having a Viking 6-burner range, Sub-Zero frig, Kenmore Elite Oven, Vita-mix blender that costs more than a car payment, and 30 brand-new Calphalon pans at your disposal? Oh, sure, I have all that lying around in my kitchen.

What is "real" about dating 20 different girls at once and they are all OK with it and wait! they live together and most of them are friends? (Maybe that show should be re-named, "Mormons Over the Edge: Monogamy is Overrated".)

ABC and Bravo, may I humbly suggest we erase the word "Reality" from our vernacular and replace it with the more accurate label of "Unscripted and Inflammatory", maybe even "UI" for short. I do love these shows. OK, "love" might not be the right word. Try "adore".

Let's talk about "The Bachelor"/ "Bachelorette". What other show lets total strangers who even Match.Com would NEVER have matched up go on exciting "dream dates" all over the world? Eiffel Tower? Sure! Helicopter over Hawaii? Check! Iceland? Been there, done that! Dinner in a castle? De rigueur! No wonder the girls seem vaguely disappointed when the roulette wheel that is ABC decides that their specific evening out is "only" camping out in the vineyards of Napa valley. Much too pedestrian for this bunch.

And how can anyone not love "Project Runway" which I personally discovered a few years ago. (I say this as if NO ONE watched the show before I was clued in to it, and I single-handedly saved Bravo's ratings from falling precipitously low.) Don't worry, I got caught up on all the back episodes from previous seasons via DVD's for purchase at Target (see blog RE: Target) and all-day marathons of the show courtesy the magic of TiVo (see blog RE: TiVo). Heidi, the lovely Heidi. She has four (count them, FOUR) children and yet she still manages to look stunning even on a bad day. (Heck, I wish my good day could look half as good as her bad day.) And the all-knowing Guidance Counselor that is Tim Gunn. Always calm. Never raises his voice (even as Santino is mocking him). Tim Gunn kinda reminds me of what I think God is probably like (if God was gay and said "Make it work!" with alarming frequency).

I also am crazy about a wonderful channel called "HGTV" which I think must stand for "Crack Cocaine and Porn for Home-Owners". I must admit to glimmers of schadenfreude when the young House Hunters with their mile-long list of "must-haves" get a grim "reality" check (there's that word again) when their budget does not sync up to their vision of their dream house. And I love how the Realtors on these shows have learned to say just the right thing. Not "What did you expect for $300,000 in downtown Seattle, you moron!" but instead more "Well, that is the reality of this price range." You can plop me down in front of Channel 229 any day, any time, and I'm a happy camper. "Designed to Sell," "Designer's Challenge," "Divine Design" ... I say, bring it!

Top Chef is the flavor of the month for me now. This season is being filmed in Washington, D.C., which is dangerously close to where I reside in Crazy Town. I am always mesmerized by the gorgeous Padma, even with the scar on her arm the size of a yardstick. She now has a new baby who is never on camera, but she hints at by saying "I'm starving!" with a little too much gusto in the dessert challenge, or by being dangerously close to popping out of her skin-tight canary yellow dress with her newly voluptuous Mommy-body. And Tom Colicchio. If Tim Gunn is not God, then maybe Tom Colicchio should be. Judgemental (well, he IS a judge), but fair. Willing to hear you out. Bummed if you threw your competitor "under the bus." And you just KNOW that he must make a mean Calamari sandwich.

I don't cook. Maybe that is why "Top Chef" is such a guilty pleasure. I like the idea of cooking, but not the (pardon the pun) "reality" of it. In my real life (as opposed to reel life), The Husband does the majority of the cooking, and when it's my turn, Tall and Short groan, "Ugh, sandwiches again?" I think they would faint dead away if I made a braised chicken (what does that even mean: braised?) And the irony is not lost on me that I work in a high-end kitchen store! Recently, in a rare moment of culinary prowess, I made some fabulous chocolate-chip cookies from scratch (the secret ingredients are oatmeal and cocoa powder). Tall took one bite and said, "You know what, Mommy? You should go on 'Top Chef' because you would win."

I did not have the heart to tell him that Toll-house does not a Top Chef make.

("Makes Only Vanilla")

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