SPOILER ALERT: If you love reality TV then this may not be the post for you.
I had a horrible realization about some of my favorite TV shows this week. I’ve had a longtime love affair with reality television that started with Trading Spaces, evolved into getting too invested in Laguna Beach and especially The Hills, following The Bachelor and The Bachelorette on and off, and has morphed into watching every single house hunting and remodeling show I can find. I blame my addiction to Fixer Upper on its availability on Southwest’s free in-flight entertainment last year! Anyway, for a few years now this relationship has been pretty tumultuous. While I’m a skeptic in so many areas of my life, I buy into these shows wholeheartedly, or at least I did for the longest time.
The first issue was the heartbreaking final episode EVER of The Hills. I loved that show SO MUCH. I remember watching it all the time in college, and I felt like I grew up with those characters. I felt like I KNEW them. And then…at the end…when they pull back the camera and show you the set….man, my jaw just dropped. I definitely re-watched the end of that show at least 5 times to see if I could see it coming. To this day while I still love it, I feel like I was lied to the whole time. The next step was reading about what happens behind the scenes on shows like The Bachelor, and while I figured those series were more scripted, it was amazing to read how much influence editing and the producers have in how we see the contestants (or should I say, characters).
That feeling came back this week when I read an article about how Fixer Upper really works (see other similar articles here and here). As I mentioned earlier, I LOVE that show. Chip and Jo are just so funny, and I love seeing the adventures of their little (big) family. I can’t believe how big their kids have gotten since the beginning (and I can’t wait for the day when “little” Drake finally cracks and decides he can’t put up with being on camera anymore). But when I read the article this week that revealed how the show really worked, down to the staging of the rooms, I was heartbroken. Part of my love of the show was trying to guess which of the houses the families were going to pick, and I have this image of these families living happily ever after in this beautiful house. Which, don’t get me wrong, they still do, it’s just a little bit different. I did always wonder what they did with their own furniture…that didn’t sit right with me.
But knowing now that basically all of these house hunting shows are a set-up…I’m not sure how to go on. I watch them completely differently now. I’m constantly looking for the tell that will reveal which house these people are already in escrow on. I’m constantly trying to figure out whether they’ve been trained to act a certain way, or have re-shot the scene a few times to get the right “feel,” or what. It’s totally ruined the fun of it for me. And yes, I realize I’m complaining about reality TV, but man, do I feel lied to! I wish I could go back to the days when I was blissfully unaware and just enjoyed watching TV with no strings attached. It’s a good thing Netflix just added approximately 59 new shows for me to enjoy…better get started.