Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nothing Real about Reality TV

Three cheers for public television's criticism of realty TV shows.  (See the story here.)  I couldn't agree more.

Yes these shows are inexpensive and I get that watching them is similar to driving by a car accident. We can't help but look.  However, we are fast approaching the point where there is nothing to view but accidents. There is no history on The History Channel. Bravo, once a fine arts channel, offers little that can be called art. And The Learning Channel? Puleeze.  All I can learn there is that some people will do anything, including humiliate themselves and their families, to get on television.

All the shows look the same. The scripts may move housewives or realtors or tattoo artists to other cities but the plots still focus on people yelling at or cheating one another. It's all so boring. Instead of throwing Christians to the lions, we toss a bride into a competition for the best reception.

Make no mistake. Reality television is scripted. Not in the sense that lines are memorized, but the situations and general tone of the shows are carefully planned.  Think all these large families can just run off to Florida on a whim?  Release forms and other legal hurdles must be obtained before filming can begin. When and where the film crew will be must be decided in advance. None of a reality show just happens. Therefore, it isn't real. (I am not referring to competition programming that requires real skill from both competitors and judges. Those programs have their own category.)

Knowing it isn't "real" is how we justify watching but entertainment says a lot about us. That these reality shows are what we accept or want makes me sad.  What behaviors are we condoning for ourselves and our children?  What are our children learning from watching this programming?  What are we communicating to them?

The next time you are tempted to watch one of these programs, think about what you will take away from it. Will you be truly entertained or are you just killing time?  Will you learn anything?  Will you improve as a person?  Will you relax and feel good?

Something to think about the next time you are tempted to view some child pitching a fit or an adult throwing a tantrum.  By watching, you are supporting and condoning it. Is that something that you mean to do?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fake Names Say Much About Us

Just how stupid can a person be? You know the answer to that.  The news is filled with people who cannot control what comes out of their mouths or their fingertips. Case in point - the person who thought he was terribly clever making up offensive pilot names and then releasing them as real. And right behind that person is the NTSB intern who "mistakenly" confirmed the names as real.  Sorry but I don't buy any of it.  There is no possible way those "names" could be taken as legitimate.  And where was the editor of the media outlet? That person wasn't doing his or her job either. Read about it all here.

Granted, I am late coming to the party but every time I decided to write about this, another aspect came to light. The latest being that Asiana decided not to sue KTVU-TV. 

There are so many things wrong with this - the fake names, not the crash. Let's start with the fact that people died. How do you suppose the families of the deceased feel about people making fun of the accident that took lives?  Then there is the issue of national perception. Instead of appearing caring and sympathetic, some of us now look like a bunch of self-absorbed, emotionless jerks.  Finally, apparently certain elements of the US media didn't learn anything from the sad incident involving a British princess, a nurse, and a couple of Australian DJs. As shown by the nurse's suicide, there can be unintended consequences when we behave like morons.

We don't know the whole story surrounding the crash of the Asiana plane. We were not in the cockpit so until the NTSB releases ALL of its findings, we don't know what happened.  It is safe to assume that the pilots feel terrible about it all. Mocking them says more about us than it does about them.

So what happens now? At the very least, the individuals responsible for the creation and dissemination of the fake names  should be held accountable for their actions. Releasing those names was not a mistake or an accident. Those who cannot discern the difference between reality and make-believe should not be working in a news organization.

Yes, there was plenty of communication going on about those fake names. But what did those stories say about those that reported it and the company for which they worked?

Saturday, July 6, 2013


We went to the movies last night. It was an unpleasant experience. With volume cranked up to the level of canon fire, it was so loud that it echoed throughout the theater. In addition to being physically painful, the reverberating sound muddied the dialogue and we often missed what the actors were saying. We were not alone. We overheard several others comment on the same problem and age didn't seem to matter. In fact, two teens were among those saying their ears hurt. I wonder if the sustained decibel level was higher than is considered safe.

Movies are too loud in general and I always bring earplugs with me. However, I learned a long time ago that sound is frequently a substitute for quality. The worse the movie, the louder the volume.  Have you noticed? If the song, soundtrack, or actor's lines are good, they are just as good, if not better, at a slightly reduced volume. 

My feelings are supported by Randy Thom, CAS, at  You can read his article here. Thom briefly explains how digital sound works. Then he makes this key point. "Film makers who resort to screaming at the audience continuously for two reels are desperate film makers grasping at straws." 

It's the same as sending text or email in all caps. SHOUTING AT THE AUDIENCE DOES NOT HIDE POOR QUALITY.  Lack of character development or disjointed plot cannot be masked by thundering sound.

Attention directors. Your hearing may be marginalized but mine isn't. Louder isn't necessarily better. Scream at me all you want. What you are communicating is that you don't know how to make a good movie.