When I started this blog a little over two years ago (WOW!), one of my earliest posts was a sort of serious, sort of tongue in cheek discussion about how watching reality television could make you a better person. My love for reality tv has dimmed a bit in the two years since I wrote this ode to its life lessons, but when I do tune in to see some of my favorites, I find that there are still lessons aplenty to be gleaned. And so I bring you the second installment of "How Reality TV Can Make You a Better Person."
1. Dancing with the Stars. Of all the shows I once watched pretty religiously, DWTS is the one that I have become the least enchanted with as of late. About halfway through this season, I found myself deleting episodes without watching. Part of the reason for the waning of my affection is a lack of time. With my work schedule and trying to fit in gym time and then come home and cook a healthy meal, I don't have a ton of time to devote to television, especially a two-hour behemouth like DWTS. The formula largely remains the same in terms of casting and even which celebrity gets put with which pro. The "twists" they've begun throwing in (Movie Night! Group Cha-Cha!) get a bit dull. Plus, they really are getting looser and looser with their definition of "star." Bristol Palin? Really??!!!??!??!! I did tune in to see the results last night (I only watched the last half hour because I knew the rest would be pure filler.) And there on my screen was a lesson that seriously brought tears to my eyes -- never count the old lady out. Sure, Cloris Leachman was an embarrassment, and Florence Henderson didn't get tremendously far. (I blame their ridiculous partner, Corky Ballas, for that, for turning their dances into dancing fart jokes rather than showing these women the respect they deserve.) There, hoisting up the coveted mirror ball trophy was my teenage idol Jennifer Grey. Jennifer Grey is 50. While she doesn't LOOK 50, her body is definitely 50 as she spent a large part of the season dealing with a variety of injuries, most seriously a bad back. (I can relate, having just spent a good week or so in enormous back pain!) Despite all that, despite the fact that she was in so much pain after Monday's perfect performances that she nearly didn't compete in last night's final dance off, there she was -- victorious. There is a new face to aging -- a youthful face. And yes, a portion of Jennifer's youthfulness may be owed to the plastic surgery that got rid of her Baby Houseman nose, but what I'm talking about here is a youthful attitude. Women like Jennifer Grey are proving to the world that 50 doesn't have to mean switching to polyester pants and applique sweatshirts. Women can age and still be active, sexy, trendy, and glamorous without it being a sad joke. And we can kick the asses of people half our age!
2. Project Runway: A sadder lesson was learned this season on Project Runway. All season long, there were a couple self-evident truths at work -- Mondo was a quiet genius, Gretchen was a deluded bitch. I didn't get too wrapped up in Gretchen hating, though, because I knew that Mondo would beat her in the finals and that it would be glorious in its severity. And then the unthinkable happened. Gretchen WON. Even now, I still don't get it. Even as someone who wears a lot of loose fitting, earth-toned clothing and works a sort of Ladies of the Canyon meets Annie Hall vibe on a nearly daily basis, I don't get it. Mondo's work was creative and bold and fun and youthful; Gretchen's was clearly the rejected costume design from It's Complicated. So what is the lesson here? Sometimes, creativity isn't enough. Sometimes, the good guy loses. Sometimes, the bitch wins. And it sucks.
3. America's Next Top Model: We'll see what next week's finale holds, but there may be a lesson brewing something along the lines of "Don't worry, awkward girls. A megalomaniac former super model with visions of being the next Oprah may some day find you pretty!"
4. Wife Swap: American families are screwed up. Plus, bacon is good for me.
I'm sure there are more lessons floating around out there (feel free to share in the comments), but I've got a Thanksgiving menu to plan. Now THERE'S an idea for a reality tv show . . . .