Although I'm a bit of a couch potato, reality television is not one of my guilty pleasures. I find many of these shows so removed from reality they should be called something more descriptive - fantasy TV.
Although "Candid Camera" probably started the whole industry back in the 1950s, it was a PBS show, "An American Family," which helped introduce the concept of cameras invading the lives of ordinary people. I never watched it because in 1971, my life was far more interesting than the Loud family of Santa Barbara.
I also felt at the time that it was unlikely that one could remain honest and natural in front of a camera, an opinion I still maintain.
As a mother of six, I frequently relinquish the remote to my children’s preferences and consequently have been exposed to modern reality shows like "The Real World" and “The Real Housewives” of several cities.
Their popularity is puzzling since they feature people who are not very likable. Perhaps shows like "Jersey Shore," "Mob Wives" and those featuring the intimate lives of celebrities like the Kardashians, Gene Simmons, the Osbournes must leave the viewers feeling better about their humdrum lives.
What I have ended up watching are the shows that my former Marine husband enjoys while I’m in the corner of the living room writing on my laptop. These reality shows are on cable networks like Discovery, National Geographic and the History Channel. Cameras follow the dangerous exploits of men and women surviving in the country’s harsh terrains not for prizes but to eke out a living.
Needless to say one will not see city slickers from either coast as part of these programs.
Watch “Deadliest Catch” to see what commercial fishers go through to bring shrimp, crabs and other food to our restaurants and supermarkets. It is remarkable particularly when the weather is life threatening.
Afraid of guns, ladies? Check out “American Guns” and see the women sharpshooters who are part of one of the premier firearms facility in Colorado. You'll learn a bit about the history of the great equalizer that made taming the West possible.
Watch the three “Mountain Men” on The History Channel who dwell in the wilderness of North Carolina, Montana and Alaska as they survive without any of the comforts most of us enjoy like running water and electricity. These men set traps for their food and grow what they need with nary a Wal-Mart or Shoprite in sight.
But quite possibly the most stirring and enlightening of all the reality shows I watched was a “Gator Boys” episode. This Animal Planet program, based in the South Florida Everglades area, is about the death-defying exploits of Paul Bedard and Jimmy Riffle. These men capture and rescue alligators, snakes and crocodiles that wander into the backyards andhomes in nearby households. They do not kill them but try to capture the critters without harming them unless necessary to save lives.
A recent episode had a triple amputee Marine vet joining the crew to fulfill his desire to wrestle an alligator. Todd is a young man who was wounded in Afghanistan. He has no legs and a bionic left hand and he is shown throwing up his arms in total glee as he rides along the Everglades in an air boat. While riding the back of a gator, he jokes that he knows he is “bite-size.”
While many of today’s youth whine about their student loans and unemployment, this young man who had his life totaled still has the capacity to live it to the fullest. He and the others I mentioned above perfectly represent the traditional can-do spirit of our great country which deserves to be broadcast throughout the world.