Reality TV is the New French Novel

I’m a Reality TV producer.  I make the stuff.  Oh, go ahead, scripted television snob,  snark away,  I’ve heard it all before.  If it makes you feel any better, I’ll confess:  we have created a Monster. But why are rational Americans surprised by Trump?  Twenty years after The Truman Show sent up a cautionary flare about our obsessive self-regard,  we are now living in a reality TV show -- a nation of over-sharers and  approval whores, each of us our own pathetic little  brand.   We’re all producers shooting our own docu-series now.  

So Reality TV has given us the worst president in living memory. There’s that.  Still and all, I will defend Reality TV as a viable and ground-breaking storytelling vehicle right up until the day Trump drops the big one on North Korea and I’m out of a job.   As a longtime  producer on The Bachelor and its numerous spin-offs, I’m here to point out that it’s time to stop dissing the genre and acknowledge it as a powerful narrative delivery system  that can hold its own with anything else in the streaming cosmos - I’m looking at you, Transparent.  

Just as Balzac and Zola’s novels savaged the petit bourgeois of 19th century France,  with its  inflated self-regard, it’s frivolous customs and status-hunger,  so Reality TV shows like The Real Housewives franchise do much the same. Reality TV is the new Comedie Humaine,  television as 19th century French Social Realist novel.  

This is not a popular position to take in Hollywood (first, you have to find someone who’s read Balzac).   Read the rest