Sunday, December 04, 2005
Getting it made (retro-post)
UNLESS YOU DEFINE C-SPAN as reality TV, most reality TV is dumb. Nevertheless, there are a few shows I admit to watching or having watched. The original, "Cops," I used to watch back when it was a new concept, but nowadays I'm older and wiser and a show glorifying the creeping police state and the drug war just doesn't appeal to me any more. I've been known to watch "The Real World" sometimes; it's like watching a car wreck. Ditto for the last couple seasons of "The Surreal Life" (which I swore I'd never watch, but how can you not watch the runty, black-as-coal, always-buggin'-out Flavor Flav hookin' up with sagging blonde amazon Brigitte Nielsen?), and "My Fair Brady." Again, it's the completely insane personalities and the drama that suck you in. And the fact that these shows, as unreal as they are in many of their facets, do evoke situations and people you know. They're an opportunity to watch human nature at work in all its beauty and repulsiveness. They excite a visceral reaction precisely because they portray such familiar, universal characters and themes.
Of the reality-show crop. probably one of the most positive in its impact is MTV's "Made." It's about high school kids who want to achieve a goal. They're provided a personal coach to pull and push the very best out of them. These kids have garnered a special place in my heart because they remind me of myself throughout much of high school. In other words, they're the so-called losers.
The kids who desperately want to be popular, to be rock stars, to be athletes, to have dates, to be good at something. Another reason these kids remind me of myself is that a lot of them kids seem to be spazzy or spacey ADHD types. (I'm the spacey kind.) The two girls whose episodes I watched during today's "Made" marathon -- Alaric and Alyssa -- did, so much that I was literally jumping up and down in front of the TV, cheering them on. I totally identify with these kids, their personalities, their gifts and their struggles.
And even without that connection, it's hard not to get caught up in the personal stories. The storyline is classic: underdog protagonist takes on his own weakness and fears, outside obstacles, the indifference, ridicule, even hatred of others, and nature itself -- and ideally, overcomes them all in 30 minutes. What's not to like about that?
Unlike most other TV fare, this show usually leaves me really pumped. If a geeky, pimply wallflower can become the prom queen, if a 290-pound poofter with 36D man-boobies can become a good soccer player, then dammit, I can do anything I want to do, too! (I already know that, in theory, but I tend to be always forgetting it.) Hard work, focus, determination, patience, persistence will prevail.
Then I feel a little envious. Why didn't I get a "Made" coach when I was their age? I sure could've used one. Heck, most days I feel like I could still use one. I never had such a person in my life. Never had much mentorship. I admit I never sought out any until recently: I'm a loner, not much of a joiner, I like to do things my own way, and my visions are so eccentric that few would understand. But no matter how unique your vision, you can always use some help in preparing to execute it. I can't help but feel a twinge of envy as I watch the paid coach push the kid to his or her utmost.