Live by the Screen, Die by the Screen: The Perils of Reality TV
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by S.D. Kelly
- May 29, 2015
It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the world of Reality TV. Bethenny Frankel is back on the Real Housewives of New York, inciting botox-compromising levels of rage in her fellow housewives. She even has a hashtag touting her return: #theBisback. Yes. Yes, she is. And Fox cancelled American Idol after 14 seasons, which, in Reality TV years, makes the show a million years old. In its way, this is sobering news, like hearing that the fossilized remains of your favorite museum dinosaur finally disintegrated, unable to endure the harsh light of the 21st century.
Most dramatically, the Duggar family fiasco has come to light — in which it was revealed that the now-grown oldest son, Josh Duggar, was guilty of molesting several girls when he was fourteen. This led TLC to pull 19 Kids and Counting, finally bringing to a halt the Duggar-franchise juggernaut.
Something was bound to go wrong with 19 Kids and Counting. It’s the Law of Reality TV. Whether what goes wrong is a fact that emerges from a cast member’s personal life or a fiction that emerges from the way producers edit the show, something always goes wrong. Reality TV thrives by balancing on the knife’s edge of fact and fiction, between creating drama to attract viewers and deflecting drama when it will repulse them. Sometimes — usually — the drama off-screen serves the show, and sometimes it undermines the show, but what is consistently true is that show always, always destroys reality.