Saturday, May 3, 2008

Alcohol and reality TV

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?

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.
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?

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
via FoxyTunes


karloff said...

hehe, this is why we don't have TV.

RamoneSmith said...

Speaking of boozy tv, we just watched "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" on DVD last night. Hadn't seen it for maybe 25 or 30 years? Wow!

queen emily said...

Never underestimate the power of a good cat or panda picture ^_^

The Real World is like Big Brother, right? Tedious stuff, it's like being the only sober one at a party full of morons. They really do need alcohol to fuel the conflicts and teh sexy, since they're not exactly choosing great conversationalists for these shows ("personalities" but not people, in a weird way).

Or if they are, they're editing all the interesting bits out...

CrackerLilo said...

Emily's got a great point--they pick chronic attention-seekers whose assets get toned at the gym, not the library. I think a lot of it, too, is that they are isolated with strangers (even if the house isn't locked, they are) and have the cameras on *all the time*. Vino doesn't necessarily contain veritas, but it can knock down inhibitions pretty well. It's not healthy, you're right.

I go on flyers at Crate & Barrel, Target, etc. about how cocktail glasses are being made too damn big now. :-) I understand.

thene said...

Also, we’ve noticed that drinking is just part of the young people’s experience.

Ah. These must be those young people who can afford to get drunk. When I was at university, I used to share a house with five other young things - no one drank more than twice a week (we'd go to the pub and meet friends on Thursdays and/or Fridays), and no one got drunk more than once or twice a month. How could we have afforded more than that?

I've only ever known two sorts of young people for whom drinking alcohol really is the centre of their experiences; the very wealthy, whose parents pay for everything while they study, and the rural poor, some of whom are wont to straight-out-say that their wages are drinking money. (Most of those boys live on farms, or in their family home, and don't expect to ever have enough money to leave. The girls seem to either get out fast, or stay and have children young).

credit savvy said...

drinking part of young people experience wow is that a wopper

credit repair

hesslei said...

Emphasis is given to studies into the causes and consequences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and biomedical aspects of diagnosis, etiology, treatment or prevention of alcohol-related health effects. The neurobiological, neurobehavioral, and pathophysiological processes associated with alcohol drinking, alcohol abuse, alcohol-seeking behavior, tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, protracted abstinence, and relapse.


South Carolina Alcohol Addiction Treatment