the fantasy of reality tv

I don’t know who else saw it, or who else will admit it.  I was absurdly obsessed with the reality TV series, Temptation Island, where serious couples who questioned their future together went to test the strength of their relationships.  It went like this: the couples were split apart.  The men went to one side of the island while their women were sequestered to the other side.  The men were surrounded by new available women, and in turn, their women were presented with gorgeous single men.  Everything was even, and they were left to figure out their odds as a couple.  Each had a chance to see video-footage of their significant other while on their side of the island.  They didn’t have to watch it, but they always chose to.  And of course, with the power of editing that really makes reality TV the fantasy it is, they’d reveal him doing body shots off another woman, and his live-in girlfriend, after viewing the tape, would be amped up with the "well if he’s doing that," attitude, then go blow off steam with the opposite sex, with the men on her island, where no doubt, the cameras would film her clip.  And I’d watch, saying to the person beside me, or to myself even, "I wouldn’t want to watch.  I’d want to make my decisions based on how I felt, not based on what he was doing."  But bullshit.  If I were really in it… and THAT, right there, is the reason I watch.  Because I do that whole, "If I were really in it" thing.  I put myself there, in the fantasy of reality TV. 

I now watch The Bachelor, knowing full-well I would NEVER be on such a show.  I imagine most of the woman on the show have said the same things themselves.  Then they do it because it sounds fun.  They’ve sat home and watched the show, said to themselves, "no way would I go on that show.  Those women are such nightmares."  They’ve said to themselves, "If I were really in it," and then they are.  I think the majority of women who watch dating reality shows like The Bachelor really do believe most of the women are idiots.  "I watch because I love to see how catty the girls are."  I don’t buy it.  You’d watch other shows for just that.  There’s a lot more to it. 

I watch, not to see the women and their dramas and analysis.  I watch because I want to see who he’ll choose and why.  Does it all come down to looks for him?  I lean in, watching from my knees, when I see him sharing an intimate moment with a woman.  Okay, so this is who he likes!  And then I see another intense exchange with another woman.  And THAT fascinates me, seeing our ability to really like more than one person at a time.  I honestly believe we all have the ability to be equally invested, romantically, in more than one person at once.  I do believe you can love like that, but why would you intentionally put yourself in that situation?   

I am a jealous girl.  Insecurity prompts it of course.  A healthy well-adjusted woman might be hurt if the man she pines for doesn’t love her back, but she keeps a healthy perspective, knows that if he chooses someone else, he certainly wasn’t the right man for her.  I would never sign up for a situation where I might be taken with a guy, just to watch other women play with him in a mud bath.  It’s my future husband, supposedly, on this show.  So now that the charmings are married, she has the knowledge, that yes, ultimately he picked her, but she not only has the memory of all the women he shared intimate moments with, but she has the footage.  How do you move on from that?  "It’s in the past" is something I try very hard to remember, but it’s not easy when you’re an insecure person to begin with.  I don’t "constantly" have to talk myself down when remembering our past, but I do have to do it from time to time, more often than I imagine other people would have to. 

When I see The Bachelor having to send someone off, saying goodbye.  He’s crying; she’s crying, and I wonder if they’re just too steeped in it, in the moment.  If they’re like all of us, in our own relationships, when we’re in it for so long, we can’t see our way out of it.  We lose perspective, head deep.  And then I wonder how much of it is an act on his part, to seem caring and invested.  And in the case of The Bachelor, I’m hoping part of it is an act because the woman he’s eventually with has to wonder, "why were you crying over all those women when you knew, and hoped, it would be me all along?"  Yes, you can feel for other people.  It doesn’t feel good knowing you’re hurting someone.  It’s still not a reason to cry on national television.  Being honest with people, letting them down, is part of the process, and we all go through it. 

And why do we watch?  I watch in part because I like to place myself there, in my fantasy, knowing full well I love my life as it is, knowing in reality, I would never, ever subject myself to those circumstances.  I watch because I like seeing what seems to win in the game of dating.



  1. I actually had the opportunity to lunch with one of the girls who was booted off The Bachelor this season. It's all a big sham, the entire thing, soup-to-nuts. And the crying, the crying generally comes after a girl is cornered by staffers and the producer and harassed for "wasting their time." It's all rather messy and ridiculous.

  2. This bring up an interesting question: can you love two people equally at the same time? I'd like to think not but maybe I'm deluding myself. I think in The Bachelor, he's able to be infatuated with several people at the same time, and that I believe. It's so artificial and I'm sure the participants all get caught up in the moment. How can you really get to know another person in those circumstances?

    p.s. – it's "catty" not "caddy." I have a friend who always makes that mistake.

  3. It's not relevant to your post, but I'm a military spouse and we've been watching this season of The Bachelor from the other side of the fence–knowing full well what it means to be married to a military guy and knowing full well these chicks don't have a clue what that means. A whole new dimension.

  4. Two things –
    This bachelor gets on my nerves. The only one I ever liked was the doctor. I might've broken my arm in order to get into his ER.
    I went to a David Sedaris reading this weekend and laughed my ass off. It was in Raleigh NC, his hometown, which added an interesting twist.

  5. I used to love Temptation Island.
    Never have watched The Bachelor, tried but I couldn't get into it.
    "reality" show favorites:

    Big Brother – Janelle was my favorite out of all the seasons.

    Surreal Life- I know, I know. FOR SHAME. *hangs head*

    Wife Swap- they're running re-runs now but I still love that show

    Trading Spouses- better than Wife Swap b/c money is involved

    Nanny 911- great show for parenting tips

    Supernanny- same thing

    It's funny how my reality tv choices have somewhat shifted since having a kid.

    And I realize this really has nothing to do with the point in your post but it got me thinking about the reality tv I watch.

  6. I'm sure the "winning" woman has no problem watching the footage since she has been pre-selected by the producers, as a paid actress, to win this competition.

    But don't get me wrong, I'm still a sucker for this addicting show. Oh, and I loved Temptation Island! Best reality show ever.

  7. No need to analyze The Bachelor – none of it is real. The men don't develop feelings for several women at once, the women don't really get heartbroken when she gets sent home. It's produced – it's TV.

    I was such a huge fan of reality TV in the very beginning, but it didn't take long for the "reality" to get stripped out of it. Too bad, it would be fun to be able to watch stuff like this and really believe we were witnessing real human behavior and emotion.

  8. I'm also way too insecure to be on The Bachelor. In real life, I don't believe that any person–man or woman–would feel comfortable with someone they're seeing simultaneously trying out a dozen or so other options. But maybe some of those feelings diminish within the confines of the show, or maybe the drive to "win" stifles those emotions. Either way, I prefer for my drunken moments to not be caught on camera, which seems like it would be a difficult feat on the show.

    The Sports Gal on has hilarious episode recaps.

  9. I was really hoping for Peyton to make it to finals. She seemed so down to earth compared to some other chics on that show. I don't know how they do it though..I'm with you on the jealousy boat, never would I be able to be with someone knowing there was footage like that out there..

  10. Do people ever tell you you've changed since wife-and-motherhood? Because your blog has. I used to read and mock it — and, okay, brutally satirize it on another blog — because it seemed to typify the self-indulgent Bradshaw-wannabe lifestyle that's become so alarmingly prevalent since SATC. And now, every once in a while, I come back out of curiousity, and I'm always a little sheepishly surprised to find that you seem like a caring and insightful person.

    And I guess that means you always were. But the internet is much like reality tv: it allows us to create separate personas and assume that the dissonance is a safe enough buffer to let us judge and be judged. If you're putting yourself out there, you deserve the criticism. But maybe you didn't, and I'm sorry.

  11. You know the "fancying two people, but then tragically have to say goodbye to one" is all a set-up right??

    It's called interesting television.

  12. i've only watched the bachelor a few times — I can't watch more b/c the women always drive me nuts. I was just reading an article from last summer's LA Times about Joe Francis, the Girls Gone Wild guy. The reporter was trying to figure out why these girls put themselves in such positions that can have detrimental effects on their lives (such as rape). I think it's like the women who want to go on the Bachelor or other shows like it (have to admit, i kinda got sucked into beauty & the geek towards the end of this season) — they all want their 15 min (or more) of fame & possibly hope it will lead to being discovered or something. maybe those of us who are insecure (myself included) who wouldn't want to watch the tapes after the fact are really less insecure than these women.

  13. I loved Temptation Island. Why is it gone?
    I watch these shows for pretty much the same reasons as you. Escaping from my own reality every so often is a good wake up call to all the fabulous stuff in my own life.

  14. In a word, "Schadenfreude"…

    I watched the 1st survivor and the show with the guy who was supposedly rich, but was really a ditch digger (and ended up picking a girl who now does weight watcher ads). that was my limit. its up there with pro wrestling, as far as i'm concerned…no reality, pure orchestration and b.s.

    as for why ppl put themselves through such a thing, i believe the whole "15 minutes of fame" theory is right on.

    now, as i think about it, the first few "Real Worlds" were pretty good stuff…

  15. You of course know that the whole thing is fake, edited to death and scripted to death by non-union writers…there is no real in reality….how could anyone not know at this point…but as someone who is going to have her own sitcom (if you are lucky) you should not endorse this crap – they will cut you (or actually your show) and leave you for dead in the ratings. Reality TV is cheaply produced crap and is killing sitcoms and most dramas too. Don't mean to be strident, but it's the truth. Doesn't matter how good your show is – it comes down to production costs.

    Good luck with the pilot etc..

  16. To make Bacehlor-watching more palatable, try this fun game: Drink every time someone says the word "connection." You can be as drunk as the girls on tv in no time at all.

  17. Of course it's all fake. It's all in the editing. It's a fantasy. I know. I guess I meant, all that aside, let's pretend it was real…

    As for my pilot… I've only just begun to write it. The outline has been approved, and we're moving forward, but I'm hoping to wrap up moose before delving back into the Straight Up and Dirty world.

  18. I loved when Travis the doctor was on.

    All of the others (especially the 'Prince') were sickening.

    Travis, though, was yummy and sincere.

  19. Oh how I was sucked into Temptation was SO good! I especially loved the R rated ones from the UK and Australia, they were good, trashy fun. The whole dynamic fascinated me, seeing how these couples either fell apart or became closer.

    I hate to say this but…I wish they would bring it back.

    As for the Bachelor. Ugh. This year's guy is SUCH a frackin' dork! I mean, really! Iron Man, Navy guy, doctor…so what is wrong with him that he needs to stoop to this kind of show? It's all so ridiculous. There is no way in hell I would be let a guy I like date a bunch of other women. I'm not made that way and I don't think any other woman is either, hence the reason they never stay together.

  20. "When I see The Bachelor having to send someone off, saying goodbye. He's crying; she's crying, and I wonder if they're just too steeped in it, in the moment."

    I always assumed that they were so into it for the following reasons:

    1. Makes for good tv
    2. The girl hopes to make him feel like he's making a mistake and as she's walking away he'll scream "WAIT!" and run after her (see #1).
    3. They have no tv, no work, no phone calls to friends, they are saturated with ONLY this show they're doing, these people also doing the show – it becomes their whole lives while they're on it. Thus, it's not the same as dating a guy you meet at a party while you continue going to work every day, playing with your dog, seeing your friends, etc. It's all you've got going on – your entire life is on hold for this.

    But I'd bet it's all just #1. Good tv.

  21. sure it's all edited…but it's not "completely fake". Come on. At least 3 of the couples borne of the show are still together, years later–that's certainly as good odds as the "real" world.

  22. Hmmm…the part about being jealous and insecure struck home with me. I think all couples have a "past" or a good deal anyway. Mine and my husband's was over 4 years ago. And every PMS I have to talk myself off of the jealousy ledge. You'd think after that many years of proven honesty and loyalty, the misdeeds of the dating past would have faded away. Not so. I think it has improved dramatically from the "I'm going to throw your clothes in the front yard melodramatic moments," but still there are times when my mistrust threatens to overwhelm me.

    I wouldn't go on one of those shows for $10,000. (Amount chosen from when the producers to Wife Swap sent an email saying they would pay that if we entered and were chosen to go on it) Even on National television, my jealousy would know no bounds.;-)


  23. I watched one season of TI but can't remember much about it. Watched a few Bachelor/Bachelorettes. Aaah, the days of "Millionaire." I still watch Survivor but it's gotten old, too. Reality TV has gotten old. I think we've borrowed enough shows from across the pond. It's time to come up with something new. So…how's that pilot coming along???

  24. We had this Bachelor thing over here in Montreal, Canada. One of my friends joined the show and was rapidly tagged "the bitch". Even to this day I cannot seem to understand what motivated her to take part in that. Fame I suppose.

    Was a complete waste of time…

    I watched the three last seasons of Big Brother ans even got the Superpass last summer. I totally understand what you're going through!

  25. Well… I hate most reality TV, but I'll tell ya.. this Bachelor is freaking hot. (He could be annoying or moronic as hell in real life, I wouldn't know, but as long as he keeps his mouth shut he's positively delicious.)

  26. Okay, I can't even believe I'm commenting on this of all posts, not once but twice.

    I just wanted to thank you for reminding me that reality tv is so much more enjoyable when you look at it from the fantasy standpoint rather than the cynical, all-this-shit-is-fake perspective which I've succumbed to since moving to LA and having a fiance that works "in the industry".

    From here on out, I'm reverting back to my Temptation Island devotee days. Oh, and totally playing the connection drinking game- thanks RC!

  27. Has anyone else seen in one of the latest People or Us Weekly magazines a picture of the last bachelor (the prince of Italy who spoke not one word of Italian) with ex-contestant Erica, the whiny, bitchy socialite w/ the tiara? She was the one who flew coach for the first time in her life just to be on the show to meet her true prince. PULEEZE!! I guess they deserve eachother.

  28. I think Flava of Love and I Love New York were more "real" than The Bachelor.

    I never watched the whole season of The Bachelor except for Lorenzo Borghese, just to see that nutjob Erica Rose. I never had an "issue" with it until this past weeks show when Richie Cunningham (aka Andy) went on the date with with Peyton and Tressa (??) and had to pick between the two of them and one had to go home. He was all sad and such and kept saying how hard it was to let one of them go.

    WELL. If he was really trying to find "true love" then why the gimmick of having to choose just between TWO he really seemed to like while there were ones at home that he seemed to have bonded with less?? The gimmick prevailed from what we saw. He should have said, "I'm not going to pick between you two- I'm giving you both a rose and someone else is going to have to leave instead".

    I watch reality shows still because when I was single and trying to gather life experiences, I did quite a few reality shows myself and I know how fake it all it. It's fun to watch though…just for the hell of it…and to try to guess what REALLY went down. It's mindless entertainment.

  29. Oh…and three personal faves that I would love to see reruns of are Love Cruise and Paradise Hotel- both with crazy Toni and her bug eys…and Married by American with the CW11's own Jill Nicolini (the traffic girl). Good Times.

  30. I never understood why women, supposedly with half a brain, would want to be on TV and degrade themselves (in these reality shows). They make real women look bad. So cheesey. Of course, if the guys are jerks, that's bad as well.

  31. i have been sooo totally sucked into reality tv and love every second of it. i gave up trying to hide my reality habit or being embarrassed by it a long time ago and have learned to embrace my inner trashy tv lover. survivor's high on my list of favorites but someone mentioned shows we've borrowed from across the pond… i LOVE those shows. what not to wear? hands down, my favorite show on tv. i could easily sit and watch a ten-hour marathon of that show any day. i have also seriously considered trying to look as bad as some of those people do in the hopes that someone would nominate me. who wouldn't want a brand new $5000 wardrobe?!

  32. sorry to post again but i just reread TSDK's comments… i would love to see a return of paradise hotel as well. toni was the biggest crazy… every time someone said "well, we'll see" and she replied with "oh, we WILL see"… it was the best. dave and charla… i want a reunion special!

  33. Have you ever watched the Flavour of Love, I think it’s a MTV/VH1 type show. We get it on Much music (the TV station) here in Canada. It’s similar to the bachelor in premise, except it’s the same Bachelor, Flavour Flave from Public Enemy…. I don’t watch it to see why he chooses the girls, I just watch it because it’s a free fall of activity and drama and weirdness. I have to say, I enjoy watching it because it’s simply bizarre. You have to check it out one day, it’s a train wreck just waiting to happen every episode and you know how fun train wrecks are to watch!

    Someone was talking about Wifeswap, I was in France and they have their own version of Wifeswap and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, it’s interesting to watch that too!

  34. I was addicted to Temption Island myself and then decided to live it out.. in real life.. after 15 yrs of marriage… that show was a horrible influence on me! But I loved every moment of my affair to be quite honest and I don't miss my husband one second.

  35. I loved temptation island. I was just thinking about that show the other day, wondering if it was still on somewhere in cable obscurity. It was so juicy, I enjoyed the couples fighting. Although he would never admit it my fiancé was hooked to, I think that made me like it more. I love when he’s into girl shows.

    I watch the bachelor also, some seasons. If I don’t catch it from the beginning I just can’t get into it. I liked Travis and hated the prince, the Italian prince who couldn’t speak Italian. What an idiot, yet still I watched. Something about the women being so bitchy and fighting over some guy they done even know. I like to try to pick out the girls that really like the guy and the others that are just in it to win. Like Stephanie T. this season, I so think that she just wants to win. I do like Andy, although theres something off about him, Cant put my finger on it yet.

  36. I saw the first episode of an officer and a gentleman – Im sooo hooked. I dont know why people do it either, other than perhaps their 15 mintues of fame. It worked for Omarosa on the Apprentice even.

    I ran across this video on you tube with a run down of the first episode of the season. I hope no one minds my sharing it here – I got about 7 minutes of laughs right along with the girl who uploaded the video. Definately worth it if you are in the mood to giggle (at someone else's expense).

  37. An acquaintance of mine dated The Bachelor while he lived in San Francisco. He's all about virtue and ethics on the show, but he's actually one of those guys who sleeps with a girl and then doesn't call.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Which Bachelor? There have been a few. I've met two of them.

  38. It's entertainment — Pure and simple. And I love watching it. I actually think it releases endorphins for me. Whatever… It's a hell of a lot cheaper than shopping!

  39. In general, I don't really like reality shows. The lack of plot and the emotional overkill turns me off. But there are a few exceptions.
    I liked the first few seasons of the Belgian-Dutch version of "Survivor". The people were in it for the experience, not for their '15 minutes'. I also played the 'what would I do if I was there' game (Missing deodorant I guess). There's also a show here in Belgium called "Peking Express", in which contestants have to lift from Moskow to Beijing on a 1€/day budget. I like to travel, so that was pretty interesting, unless the people participating are too annoying. The Belgian "Wife swap" was amusing too. I never tought of "What not to Wear" as a reality show untill a previous commenter mentioned it, but maybe it is too. It made me a better dresser.
    The other ones I sometimes zap by, and they mainly make me sigh 'Good Lord'. But "Temptation Island" really makes me cringe. I don't know how it is in the American version, but the one that's running in Belgium is a pain to watch. It makes me sick to see how some of those people behave. It's like they go on the show as an excuse to go all out, or get back at their partner. Most of it is a setup though, each season had professional porn stars in the cast (undercover, but it got out in the media).

    I hope your sitcom will air in Europe as well.

    And as a complete sidenote: nice of Sarah to apologize for the bashing. Admitting you were wrong about someone is not always easy, especially not to the person itself.

  40. In response to Stephanie: The current Bachelor, who went to UCSF for medical school (Andy). But the first one was a cad as well.

  41. I just loved temptation island! and couldn't remember the name of the other one that I wish would come back until TSDK mentioned it. Paradise Hotel was so psychotic it was great! I am an avid bachleor watcher but there is something not right with this guy-he just seems too perfect. It is great fun watching-you know there is a train wreck waiting to happen each week. I try to force my husband to watch it with me.

    I would never have done this when I was single although my 3 other sisters and I discussed submitting our youngest sister to be on a bachleor or to be the bacheloette. We decided this was ultimately not very nice and would stick to the typical gag gifts at christmas instead. I think our parents would not have been amused. Who wants to be on TV like that? drunk, dating, NO WAY.

    Amazing race is also entertaining.

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