It makes sense that showrunners of scripted television would loath reality television, but there are a number of terrific reality shows out there that, in my opinion, are saving civilization from scripted television. You watch shows like "Deadliest Catch," "Dirty Jobs, "Swamp Loggers" "Ice Road Truckers," and "Pawn Stars," and you're seeing something scripted television ridicules, demeans or ignores altogether: masculine men running small businesses and those everyday folks around them who love their country, believe in Jesus, and do the hard work that keeps this world of ours turning.
These are amazing people, many of whom live and work in those states too many scripted showrunners merely fly over. And the stories these brilliant reality producers create around the day-in/day-out drama of being a working stiff are usually much more compelling than any episode of "Law and Order: Liberal Sucker Punch." I love seeing working people celebrated, especially those who cut down trees, kill small animals, fly the flag, carry guns, rail against government bureaucrats who make their jobs unnecessarily difficult, and come together whenever there's a crisis.
Scripted television wouldn't give working people their due; all these Hollywood snobs saw was fodder for cheap punchlines, so reality television filled the market.
That's the way America is supposed to work.
PBS – the network with no commercials – delves into the creative process of creating commercial television in the four-part documentary America in Primetime, bowing in October. The documentary special includes interviews with numerous actors and showrunners. And appearing at the Television Critics Association press tour here were Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal, Nurse Jackie co-creators Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, who appears in the “independent woman” hour of the documentary.
Wallem called the film, “a beautiful valentine to television.” But what came through during the panel discussion was just how capricious the business is.
Selling your show in a network pitch meeting, said Wallem, has become more difficult at a time when network’s are desperately chasing eyeballs in a vastly fragmented media landscape.
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“You’re talking to a room full of fear,” she said. “You literally have to deal with their [network executives] fears in that room. I always tell them, ‘Oh don’t worry, it’s going to be funny.’”
Rosenthal – who recently directed and starred in the documentary Exporting Raymond, about his journey to shepherd Everybody Loves Raymond into the Russian market – blamed reality television for diverting network resources from scripted television.
“Sure they’re to blame because they’re cheap to do,” he said. “The glut of reality shows that we’re seeing could signal something larger than just a trend. And that is the end of civilization.”