Monday, February 13, 2012

Reality Shows invading our language

JAN BROGAN - I had bought a winter jacket on line from one of those discount design houses and I was debating whether to keep it or not. My sister-in-law loved it, my daughter wasn't too sure. She had asked me to take a picture of myself in it and send it to her. Which I did. Her reply, also by text was along the lines of: "Go with your gut.: She added, "it looks like it could be a bit Kardashian-y."

I have never once watched the Kardashians on television, but I knew exactly what she meant. Expensive-looking for the sake of being expensive. A bit over the top. Maybe not appropriate to function. How did I know this? This is the mind boggling part. From the one or two times I've seen Kim Kardashian on the cover of a People Magazine at the allergists? From the one or two times I've flipped through TV stations and caught her image on Entertainment Weekly? It's not that I'm above reading about a celebrity in People, or watching a segment or two on Entertainment Weekly, total sucker for anything Jennifer Aniston, but because I never watch the Kardashian show, I don't ever read the Kardashian news or watch a segment on celebrity TV)keep flipping . So we are talking about very momentary images here.

So I'm wondering, has anyone else experienced new vocabulary, new thoughts or new awareness of reality shows without actually watching them? (THINK of your internal review of Steve Tyler singing the anthem at the Patriots/Ravens playoff game?)

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Sad but true. Every time I see a long-haired brunette who looks a little trashy I think - Kardashian! (including myself) As if it's a species. I've even got my husband saying it now. I've never seen the show either. I think for a while I said "Is that your final answer?" without ever having watched whatever show that came from. These things sneak into the lexicon (and our brains apparently) when we're not looking.

And it isn't that I'm too highbrow either...sitting around enjoying high tea and waiting for the next episode of Downton Abbey. I'm a sucker for Lucky and InStyle, two magazines devoted to hard-hitting journalism. Like the recent issue which compared the Kardashians' closets.(One of them has more Birkin bags than the other.)

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, yes, it's like a disease, isn't it? I've never seen the Kardashians either, but would immediately have gotten the reference. And the tongue-in-cheek Kardashian clone on last week's Castle. My husband is always saying, "How did you know about that?" when he reads about the latest gossipy thing on Facebook. Obviously he doesn't do the grocery shopping! He has, however, started reading Entertainment Weekly magazine (which for some reason we get free,) so he is suddenly au courant. Too funny.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Ro, you're the CLASSY brunette, not the trashy one. Yes, I'm all too aware of the current reality shows, mostly because (Bad Mother alert) my 11 year old daughter reads ALL those gossip magazines. It's like she's the reincarnation of Hedda Hopper. When we're standing in line at the grocery and I'm staring blankly at pictures of people I don't know, she explains which one is a Teen Mom and which one is a Bachelorette. (Why isn't that show called The Spinster?) I'm aware you can watch people getting hatched, matched, and perhaps even dispatched on television today (if you count getting fried from THE APPRENTICE.) My personal opinion? It's the end of civilization as we know it.
Except for PAWN STARS! I love PAWN STARS.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Except for PROJECT RUNWAY, right? I truly love that. ANd you know, "Make it work." I was a huge fan of--oh,gosh, I'm telling you this--Survivor, when it first came out. I had a huge blow-up with an acquaintance over it--apparently my fascination with it indicated to him that I was incredibly shallow and not worth talking to. I am not exaggerating.

And even Jonathan says--"You really made it your own." And if you know where THAT comes from...

But it's a bit scary. The guy who's the Harvard Hasty Pudding choice? NO IDEA who he is. SO many people, I have NO IDEA. AND this is what I used to sneer at my mother about.

JAN - Oh Hank, does that mean you did NOT see The new Muppet Movie? Jason Segel (that's the actor getting the Hasty Pudding award) was awesome and I think he even wrote it - which makes him my new favorite hero because I'm a total sucker for the Muppets and even if I wasn't it was a totally uplifting movie, which unlike the reality shows, which as Julia points out,, are bringing down the culture, Jason and the Muppet movie are actually elevating it. But I suppose that's another blog.
RHYS BOWEN: Amen to Project Runway. I confess to having used "The tribe has spoken." I have enjoyed Survivor in the past, but now it's just silly little games. Why not TRUE SURVIVOR? Put people with no food on an island alone (with a few Komodo Dragons, poisonous snakes, sharks in the water) and see how many survive? We might even get a good Lord of the Flies situation which would raise the ratings.

Actually my daughter who is an industry insider says that all reality shows are scripted. They cut and paste dialog mercilessly so that they get drama and the outcome they want. I've never watched any Kardashians. Hate the whole concept of the Bachelor/Bachelorette... and the fact that you'd want to marry any man who is making out with different women every week.

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm sure I'm dating myself here, but whenever I see a long haired brunette who looks a little trashy I think Tiny Tim.
The only reality (ha ha) show I watch is Project Runway ("One day you're in, and the next day you're out.") Totally hooked. I'd be in the Tim Gunn fan club if I knew how to join. And I do occasionally want to "vote" someone "off the island" even though I've never seen whatever show that comes from.

JAN: I think I'm the only one on JR who is NOT a Project Runway fan, so I know nothing about the language there. How about everyone else? What reality show vocabulary has invaded your language? Or made itself into a handy adjective?


  1. Reality shows are cheaper to produce than ensemble casts shows with many actors, sets, costumes, and scripts every week. Expect more of these, not fewer.

    News shows are cheaper to produce, too, at least cheaper than episodal TV. I was on Times Square a couple of years ago, outside I think the CNN studio. There was a single person sitting there, in the presenter chair, and only cameras around her, as she read what was on the screen.

    With apologies to Hank, by the way!

    I've never watched Jersey Shore, either, but have somehow assimilated tidbits about Snookie and the guy with the abs. It's insidious, it is.

  2. Hi Karen,
    i watched Jersey Shore, once, against my will, which was really painful because I actually spent a summer working at one of the discos that they frequent.

    And believe me, even if Snookie and cast are imported from Long Island, In Jersey, those people are REAL.

    The best thing I heard about Jersey Shore was that one upscale designer handbag company, like Coach or Dooney Burke, actually paid her to carry the competition's handbag to make it seem tacky.

    I don't even care if that's true, It's such a great story.

  3. Oh, Jan, I know what you mean. and get this--I don't watch TV, at all. We had so little time for it that we didn't get the converter box when all TV went HD or whatever. So our TV is used solely to play videos. So how is it that I know about the Kardashians and Snooki and "vote you off the island" wherever that comes from?

    Julia, don't think it gets any better. My son was a fan of Entertainment Weekly and all those celebrity mags (that I was sure would rot his brain). He still is, as he's about to become Dr. Joseph Rodriguez, king of medieval English literature. He uses Dexter when he teaches a heroes and villains course in lit. He also sees his visits home as his chance to force me to learn "something about the culture you actually live in, MOM!"

    I've become obsolete!

  4. No, Linda, you are escaping with your brain intact!1

    I'm jealous of your TV situation. Except for Downton Abbey, of course. Which I missed TWICE while on vacation.

  5. Jan, You can watch all the Downton Abbey episodes that have been shown so far on the PBS website. Dr. Joseph got us addicted w/ the DVD of Season 1 over the holidays. Now, Ben and I watch it Monday evenings on my laptop. They post the new episode the day after it airs.

    And from the tweets of those watching last night, it's going to be rich.

  6. If you you want reality go to the Food Network. I mean CHOPPRD, WORST COOKS, etc. keep me on the edge of my seat.
    The Next Food Network Star is laughable because somehow even the runners up show up on their own shows later.
    Kim Kardashian is on a slippery slope right now..people maybe are wising up to her "reality"..just saying.

  7. Marie,
    Just this morning a couple of friends were raving about Chopped. I might have to break down and watch it this Tuesday!

  8. Reality is finally creeping into our commercials.
    Personally, I don't think I want to really find out "what really goes on the bathroom" according to a toilet tissue commercial.
    The parents who are quivering because they ran out of their son's favorite sugary cereal and have to offer him a healthy substitute leaves me in a comatose state. In my house, we sat, we ate and we went to school.

    On a different note who is brave enough to watch MOB WIVES? I deftly change the remote before I succumb to the trials and tribulations of these women.

  9. No, Jan, your not the ONLY one who doesn't watch Project Runway. And I didn't even know there WAS a Kardashian show! So that's why that name gets bandied about — not just her blink-of-the-eye marriage. Julia, I loved your "people getting hatched, matched, and perhaps even dispatched" (I think the dispatched may be on something called Hoarders? Don't they find corpses in there sometimes. Not sure, just seen the promos. The only reality show I watch is Househunters. And even that is obviously scripted like all of the rest. Never thought I's ever say this but: TV has gone to hell in a hand basket (whatever that really means). And before I run out of rant, A&E really needs to change it's "theme" it's neither arts nor entertainment.

  10. I don't usually watch reality shows - except maybe the Voice. But as I've flipped channels, I've wondered why anyone would want to watch Hoarders, Intervention, or Billy the Exterminator (I think that's his name).

  11. I don't really watch those programs, except for Downton Abbey (of course) and some select crime, and mystery shows-I'm consistent. But I'm still asking what a Kardashian is-I know who they are, but I don't know why they are so famous. What have they done? And why do so many people care?

  12. Thank goodness we never broke down and installed cable. Remember when the big selling point to PAY FOR TV was "no commercials"? Is that ever a joke now. Why ever would I want to pay to watch commercials? No, thank you.

    On the rare occasions when I do have access to a TV with cable I can never find anything worth watching, so I hardly ever bother, unless I need to see a stock market report (another why bother thing, really).

    Since we got a digital TV six years ago we found a whole new world of extra stations on free TV, including 24-hour weather, 24-hour news (including international), 24-hour movies, and so on. And with the addition of streaming Netflix, there is really no reason to subject myself to reality shows, commercials, or God help me, screaming political ads.

  13. Karen,
    I'm with you. We've just discovered Netflix and have dumped most of our premium stations, but have to have the basic because its

    ALMOST BASEBALL SEASON!! The ultimate reality show and my biggest vice.

    Lil, I cannot for the life of me figure out why people watch the Kardashians or any of the family-type reality shows. Although Marie, I love all things mob and thought I might like Mobwives, so I TRIED TO watch it, but it was a little like watching Jersey Shore, brought back too many real-life memories for a Jersey-born girl.

    Nancy, I have watched the Hoarders a couple of times with utter fascination and
    I highly recommend watching the Hoarders before you have to clean your closets. You'll find yourself cleaning like a madwoman.

  14. Like Linda,I no longer watch TV. I had basic cable but then my cable company decided that having a remote control wasn't good enough and everyone must have a box as well. People were expected to install it themselves. I am Ms All Thumbs and No Tools so i decided to just forget about it. I was down to mostly just watching the news by then.

    So I have never seen reality TV. Over the weekend I was at the laundromat. There's a TV in the dryer area. I was reading while my things were in the washers. When I started taking my laundry out of the dryers and folding everything I became aware that a couple of young male customers were mesmerized by what was apparently a reality program. I had no idea what it was but I thought it was disgusting. I kept thinking that I did not want to be on the same planet with the kind of people who were on that program!! I was hurrying to get out of there before giving in to the temptation to ask the young men watching it if they had lost their minds!! During a commercial break I found out it was Jersey Shore. Those people CANNOT be real!!! Oh, my God,if they are, then I'm embarrassed to be a human being!

    A few years ago the daughter of an acquaintance was on a reality program wth a couple of friends. It was a Jerry Springer type of thing; perhaps it WAS that program. They were each assigned a "persona"and told what kind of scene to act out. I have no idea if they rehearsed it all or adlibbed or whatever. They did not use their own names on the program-which made my acquaintance very happy! I understand that one of the young people got hurt in a fake fight. It was enough of an injury that medical attention was required and the program paid the medical expenses. I don't know what possessed the kids to go on the program but I think one of them might have been interested in an acting career.

    Sometimes I think maybe I should find a way to check out some of these programs...just so i know what everyone is talking about!

  15. Deb,
    You are lucky to be in the dark. And that was exactly MY reaction to Jersey Shore, even though I actually lived through it for a summer.

    (there were nice, normal people, there too, only they didn't make reality shows about them)


  16. Don't bother me. I'm on a Cumberbatch high right now.

  17. I have to agree about the reality shows angle, cannot stand to watch 99% of them. I must admit to a guilty fascination with What Not to Wear...I love to watch the befores.

    My mother had taken to saying some of the phrases that I said in high school (it's taken her about 6 years to start) and it still makes me do a double take sometimes. I just have to chuckle to myself and shake my head, but at least I don't have to explain myself any more!

    I'm a lot like Julia: who the heck is Teen mom and everyone else? One of my coworkers had to explain it to me...she was younger so I just nodded, said uh huh and moved on, not interested at all.

    I must also admit that Downton Abbey has caught my interest in the last week. The second season has been great.