Reality Television is the new kid on the block and he’s a bit of a bully. Remember when television used to be about entertainment? Whether it was humorous, informative or dramatic, television shows left the general public with a feeling like the grass might indeed be “greener on the other side.” Even soap operas painted a glamorous, always-land-on-your-feet lifestyle, albeit riddled with angst. 

Somewhere along the line, television viewing became less about entertainment and more about hype. ‘Trash television’ shows like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich began creeping in and titillating our senses. Soon after that, ‘big mouth television’ began gaining ground with shows like The View and The Talk. (Does America really need tips on mothering from Sharon Osbourne?) We are now scraping the bottom of the barrel with a new animal called Reality Television. Here’s a small sampling of the shows we can eradicate our brain cells with:

 Out-of-Touch with Reality

  • Sister Wives: Kody Brown has four wives and 16 children. Superman or idiot?
  • Wife Swap: Twice the nagging without any fun.
  • 19 Kids and Counting: Time for husband Jim Bob to get a hobby.

 On the Cusp of Reality

  • My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding: Male chauvinism with a twist.
  • Bridezilla: Girls you’d never want to bring home to mother, let alone marry.
  • Cake Boss: Eat the desserts or sleep with the fishes.

Lost All Sense of Reality

  • Mob Wives: Bridezilla meets the Godfather.
  • Swamp People: Where the humans are more frightening than the gators.
  • Toddlers & Tiaras: Narcissism in the making.

Those of the viewing public who haven’t had their fill of nasty, back-stabbing, politically incorrect behavior on Reality TV shows thus far will be interested to hear that Roseanne Barr (yes, she is using her maiden name again) will be debuting her own brand of reality with a new, 16-episode show called “Roseanne’s Nuts.” (Is this something we didn’t already know?) Roseanne has purchased a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii and she – along with appearances from her children, grandchildren and boyfriend – portrays the life of a comedian turned (nut) farmer. 

Reality Television begs the question: at what point does a no-holds-barred airing of one’s dirty laundry cross the line from entertainment to sensationalism? Why do we watch situations on television that we’d cringe to see in public? Imagine trying to eat dinner at a restaurant with a Tiara Toddler at the next table or serving on the PTA with a group of Mob Wives. 

I’ll admit I was enamored with Deadliest Catch when it first aired. The men who made a living out of danger, daring and skill blew my mind. Still, a few marathon weekends of raspy-throated sea captains profaning everything from half-empty crab pots to “lazy” crewmen (who haven’t slept in four days) eventually grew wearisome. Personally it was annoying to hear more “bleeping” than dialogue.

Whether from boredom or blood-thirstiness, Reality TV peaks our morbid interest and shocks our senses. Whether we shake our heads in amazement or roll our eyes in exasperation, the “realistic” scenes that play out are like train wrecks that we can’t – or won’t – look away from. It’s a point I could ponder for a while, but it’s almost time for Cupcake Wars.

(Photo used with permission: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)