Left: A picture of my cats, with absolutely no connection to anything I have written below. (I blame Queen Emily and her random cat and panda photos!)
Sitting here watching mindless televised drivel, such as The Real Housewives of New York City. Once again, I am totally astounded by how much alcohol is consumed during filming. I seem to recall the first modern reality show,* MTV's THE REAL WORLD, plying it's young participants with a lot of booze, then standing back as the fireworks start. The kids run their mouths, oblivious to everything, insulting each other and making horses' asses of themselves. And isn't that what makes reality TV so much fun? One REAL WORLD season even featured a real alcoholic, Ruthie, and pretended it was a public service announcement as she was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.
I found a 2006 Forbes interview with REAL WORLD co-producer Jonathan Murray, in which he is asked, what's up with all the guzzling? Of course, he plays innocent:
Q: The reality genre has been getting a bad rap for getting cast members liquored up before going on the air. Are you going out of your way to get your cast drunk?Uh-huh. Does anyone remember those drunken kids crawling through that bathroom window (just like the Beatles song) to see what the squealing, moaning, intoxicated girls were doing in the shower? Does anyone remember the alcohol-fueled arguments between various house-members of different races, genders, religions, sexual orientations? What about the telegenic, comically entertaining behavior of infamous dickweed Puck, after he'd had a few? Does anyone remember when severe partying precipitated David's aggression towards Tami, resulting in his exile from the house?
A: I can’t speak for other shows, but we do not provide alcohol to the cast members on our shows. There’s no alcohol in the house when they move in and we never provide it to them while they’re there. All of the alcohol that they consume, they’ve actually gone out and purchased for themselves.
Also, we’ve noticed that drinking is just part of the young people’s experience. After the Hawaii season when Ruthie had her issues with drinking, I went back and looked at her application. On it she said, “I treat alcohol no differently than anyone else at Rutgers.” At that time, I went “Whoa,” and I think that we sort of woke up to the fact that young people were using alcohol in a way that a lot of us hadn’t seen before--and the show just reflects that. But quite honestly, as a producer, excessive alcohol is not great for us because a character is less interesting when they’re drunk. What they do has less meaning. If someone is going to bed with someone, it’s much more interesting if they’re sober doing it, than if it is just a drunken thing.
All boozy incidents, with accompanying whoops, hollers, yelling, irrational acting-out, and so forth. (Yeah, they don't PROVIDE THEM with alcohol--well, where are they getting the money to buy it, in that case? Nobody on THE REAL WORLD seemed to have a real job.) Obviously, being on TV is nerve-racking, even reality TV, and people feel the need to loosen up. And then reach for the bottle.
And so, today, I watch reruns of Bethenny keeping up a running drunken commentary ("I was a little bit out of control," she admits later) on her biological clock and make an ass of herself on BRAVO. (Isn't she embarrassed now?**) And I wonder, would there be any reality TV without drinking? What does this say about our culture? Truthfully, I don't pretend to know. I can tell you one thing: I haven't had a drink of alcohol since January of 1982, and these shows have very strongly reinforced that decision. There but for the Grace of God! Woooo-hooooo! Let's get on TV and scream, holler and argue like rednecks!
What IS interesting is the cultural fact that these women aren't considered rednecks for acting like rednecks, because they are rich, live in New York City, attend hoity-toity fashion shows and send their kids to the best schools in the world. Same behavior from low-class people? Damn rednecks!
I am now watching the episode where The Countess is upset that she is not addressed properly by the cab driver. In a later show, The Countess helps an unemployed black woman with her job application (as if The Countess has ever seen one before). You can't make this stuff up!
And that's why we get addicted to reality TV.
*The first reality TV show was AN AMERICAN FAMILY, broadcast on PBS in 1973. At that time (and because of the PBS connection), reality TV was regarded as artsy kin to cinéma-vérité. When it became a staple of mass-market MTV, it lost its considerable highbrow cache.
**I guess she's not embarrassed, since she just signed a lucrative multiple-book deal with Touchstone Fireside.
Being rich means never having to say you're sorry.
Listening to: Drive-By Truckers - A Blessing and a Curse