Jeff Fox: 'Reality' is overrated anyway
I am so ashamed to admit this. I’ve been highly dismissive of the fakey-fake reality shows, which seem to consist of rounding up people only too eager to share their self-involved dramas against the backdrop of some contrived danger or bizarre contest.
But the genre has overtaken cable television, where channels slice up ever-narrower demographic appeals. It was inevitable that they would hunt me down.
Remember when the Discovery Channel was about, you know, nature? An hour on the life cycle, menu and social doings of the wolf. Lots of footage of wolves frolicking and chomping on an unlucky moose. The narrator would drop a sentence or two every couple of minutes. It wasn’t what would pass for gripping television today, but always I found it mesmerizing.
Good luck finding that now. Just as the History channel has forsaken history for “Pawn Stars” and “Ice Road Truckers,” – OK, I liked “Ice Road Truckers” for one season – now Discovery has turned from bunnies and salmon to those guys on “Dual Survival,” snaring and cooking the bunnies and salmon. Over a fire started with a bow drill, in a monsoon.
Love those guys. Never mind that the show’s disclaimer says, uh, we’re not going to let them die and, besides, how much trouble could they be in with a film crew milling about? I’m guessing a couple of the production guys carry Skittles in their day packs.
There is a certain script to these unscripted shows: Dude, night is coming, it’s cold, and we need fire and meat. The going is tough, so we need to get going. Wait. What’s that? A bear?
Cut to commercial.
Back now: Reset entire story. Wasn’t a bear. Just a squirrel. Not much meat there. Dude, we’re gonna die. No, we’re too tough to die. Darn it – rain! Fire’s out. Drama.
Cut to commercial.
Back now: Reset entire story again. Fire’s OK after all. A fitful night of sleep. In the morning, walk a mile – it’s looking grim – then find a road, the way back to civilization. No one dead. Roll credits.
And now Discovery has debuted “Yukon Men,” with episodes carrying names such as “Hunt or Starve” and “The Race for Fur.”
Well, I’m done. I cannot resist the stunning scenery. (Not for nothing did I live in the piney northwoods of Minnesota for six years.) There is large flora and fauna. There are guys trying to shoot the fauna, lest the village starve in the long, brutal Alaska winter.
This is about guys hunting and fishing and talking about hunting and fishing, so deal me in. I wouldn’t last one cold Alaska weekend, but it looks great from the comfort of my living room.
So with TV shows ranging from “Deadliest Catch” to “Storage Wars” to, seriously, “Say Yes to the Dress,” it’s obvious that no detail of anyone’s life is too banal to be aired. Since they’ve targeting me so carefully, I wonder if I’m next.
That guy who narrates “Ice Road Truckers” does about half of these shows, and he’s so over the top that it almost works. I can just hear him narrating my life.
“Fox enters the Hy-Vee with one goal in mind: Filling the family freezer to get through the long, unforgiving winter. It’s a major challenge, and one bad move could spell disaster. If he doesn’t get this right ... well, I guess he could come back tomorrow.”
Hmm. Needs work. But don’t think it couldn’t happen.
Jeff Fox promises his Twitter followers that he’s entertaining and informative. He’s @Jeff_Fox. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.