“What Would You Do?” The TV Reality Show Primetime

Change the Channel–That’s What I’d Do!

This may be a strongly worded opinion, and even though it may sound theatrical and harsh, it suits the topic of this reality show perfectly. Read on.

I feel compelled to rant about another recent addition to the lineup of TV “reality shows” (the ones apparently based in non-reality). This one is called, “Primetime: What Would You Do?” The show stages professional actors in mock situations in the nature of exaggerated social conflict, such as racial discrimination at a restaurant, or an abusive woman berating her professional nanny in a public coffee house (right in front of her child and onlookers, of course).

The premise is to gauge bystander reactions to socially deplorable behavior. The problem with this reality show, like so many others of its ilk, is that the staged situations are far from the realm of reality. Once again, producers give us portrayals of people behaving at their absolute worst for the sole purpose of provoking others who are not part of the charade.

This is not reality! One scenario I just watched has the mother railing at her hired nanny in front of her child and using the most abusive language possible. She grabs the nanny repeatedly by the arm in a threatening and hostile way while making threats of bodily harm. The show then exploits the innocent bystanders by gaging their reactions. The idea is to then judge the unwitting and grill them up close on why they either stepped in to assist the poor “victim” or did nothing. Or, in some cases the producers would challenge the people who actually sided with the offending party and ask them to explain themselves (if they even permitted their faces to be shown).

The other scenario in the show I watched had day workers being refused service by the operator of a take-out restaurant. The man behind the counter was so openly hostile in his bigotry that some bystanders either joined in trying to kick out the aliens, or, in most cases simply ignored the confrontation. In a few instances people actually came to the defense of the migrant workers and turned against the nasty restaurant operator.

In all of these mock situations, what played out was ugly, hostile, and tension filled. None of it was based on normal social behavior or reality. These types of scenarios are not a true depiction of the society we live in today. However, think about how many people will actually see it as being reality.

And, therein lies the rub, folks. This is not reality. This is televised sensationalized garbage. This is painting society blacker than it really is. It is also a vehicle for convincing the masses in America that it is somehow acceptable to butt into other peoples’ ugly business and escalate the drama. Why not? They do it on TV. Just be prepared for the consequences when dealing with agitated strangers if that’s your poison.

This is the mind-set of this ludicrous and dangerous television show. “Primetime: What Would You Do?” seeks to instigate and stir up hysteria by creating faked realities that are far beyond everyday context. Actors portray exaggerations of people whom we would naturally see as immoral or wrong. Yet the examples are so extreme they defy reality. Ignorant people buy this crap. Some may even actually identify with the “bad guys.” This gives people permission to rachet up their response. “It must be normal to be this horrible if we see it on television.” Some will buy into these examples of so-called reality. They may see it as a reality. Some will even side with the prejudiced jerk who insults the day workers and refuses service in his restaurant while spewing racial epithets.

There are plenty of impressionable IQs in the American audience who take their lead from these examples. Some will take the high road. Some will stay out of it. Others may see the themselves more as the one who steps in to defend the wronged. They’ll see themselves putting themselves in the middle of a conflict so they can be heroes like the ones they saw on TV. It is all based on a false reality observed on television. It is license for open hostility–the antithesis of civility.

Why do they keep producing shows like this? More and more reality programs seek to portray us as a society of mental cases and hostile, competitive monsters. This is what people are seeing in The Jersey Shore and The Housewives of New York (or wherever). There is a long list of similarly themed shows.

My question is this: Are you for true reality or are you for some producer’s version of low class reality based on hostile and dangerous examples. We do not need to slide any farther down that slippery slope of becoming like the slime balls we see on the reality shows. We need to stop watching and stop allowing our children to watch. What are these examples telling us? They are sending all the wrong messages about what we are as a society and who we should be as a society. People learn by example. We have too many bad examples on television doing great harm to society. Enough already!

(As I update this post on November 19, 2010) a new episode of this show is being advertised on TV.) The premise for this latest show is: What would you do if you saw a person berating someone else in public for looking bad (too fat) in their bathing suit? Is this really reality?! Are people really that rude? I don’t think so. However, I also believe that some people who watch this garbare, who are inclined to be bullies already, may take this show as another signal that is it not so extraordinary for to behave like this. This show would make it appear that this type of behavior is commonplace, when it is not! It is a bad distortion and NOT reality.

Change the channel! Watch sports. Watch PBS. Watch Dancing With The Stars or one of the good cooking shows. Watch a game show. Just stop with these horrible reality shows that are dragging society into the muck. Change the channel. Look for programming that models decent social behavior. Don’t mire in baseless reality shows. It is bad form to watch bad behavior for entertainment. Grow up! Change the channel!

Robert George Reoch

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