Sunday, June 01, 2008

Real reality TV

I decided to have a relaxation weekend. I got a much-needed massage, I rode my bike to the farmer's market, I read, I wrote some pages, I sat around and watched TV.

And as I flipped channels I discovered two shows I am an idiot for not watching before, two shows that are great examples of creating story from the world around us.

I first watched Kitchen Nightmares. I've avoided this show because all I've seen of Hell's Kitchen is some angry British dude berating people in the kitchen because they can't brine a shrimp properly. I really don't want to watch a show about an asshole who abused his power because he can.

But that's where I forgot about the nature of American reality TV. It's all manufactured bullshit. Because what I learned from Kitchen Nightmares, a BBC show where Gordon Ramsey travels around the UK helping restaurant owners save their failing businesses, is that he's not really like that asshole he plays on Hell's Kitchen.

I watched this one episode where this couple did nothing but fight with each other and the customers, and it had driven away all their business. Ramsey convinced them to change their menu, bringing less stress to the kitchen which caused fewer fights between them. Then he taught the wife to stop being so antagonistic toward customers because you can't be rude and expect people to come eat with you. And that's the exact opposite of what he displays on his American show.

The best thing about this episode is that he not only saved the restaurant, he saved this couple's marriage. The wife started smiling. The couple stopped fighting. Their business doubled. Their shouting matches ceased. That was a cool story and it really happened. It was so beautiful I was almost moved to tears.

BBC shows don't force the drama the way the major network shows do. They let it happen and use editing to tell a story, whereas American producers ten to prod and poke the people on the show to create story even if there isn't one. I'd much rather watch a sweet story about a couple who lost their way and needed a guide to help them get their direction back than some angry man berate his chefs because they left too much salt out of the soup.

Then I was flipping channels and stumbled on Meerkat Manor. How the crap have I not been watching this? This show is fucking fascinating. I put it on in the background while I was sending emails and reading things and before I knew it I tossed everything else aside and stared at my television, completely enraptured by these little guys. The narration is key, because without it we wouldn't necessarily know what's going on, but the writers on this show tell a brilliant story about love and war and family and general awesomeness.

I know everybody and their mom discovered this show before me, but I'm glad I finally got around to figuring out why it's so great.

On both shows, it's a natural story that the writers and editors clean up and focus so we really see the drama. It's far more fascinating to me than some show with manufactured drama.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:36 PM

    I've been watching Meerkat Manor for a few years on the BBC, with Bill Nighy narrating. It is brilliant.


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