Father Knows Best was a family oriented TV show that ran from 1954-1960. I had never heard of it before my dad suggested that we use it as the title. However, I included an episode from the show below for reference. I think it fit well with the conversation we’re discussing, as well as my previous post. Obviously, television has changed quite a bit…where this episode uses actors to portray typical family struggles during this time, we now have shows that include real families and “real” drama—not actors.
I love reality television. Is that a surprise? I already told you in my first post that I’m a millennial! Nothing should come as a surprise at this point. However, this sheer fact unnerves my father to no end. He loathes reality TV.
When I record Keeping Up on the TV at home he immediately deletes the episodes. Same goes for The Real Housewives, and you’d better believe he drops Vanderpump Rules like it’s hot! But what is it about reality television that engrosses me, and so many others, so deeply?! I have a few hypotheses that I’ll get into, but first let’s hear the words of my father himself on his ideas—he came into town for business in Raleigh, so we had the pleasure of discussing these over burgers at Al’s.
- I don’t think reality television actually portrays reality at all.
I think it’s all about creating “fake” drama between people/characters. I believe it really dumbs people down. I really don’t see it as creative or entertaining. There’s no value in them; you don’t learn anything from these shows. I don’t think they add anything positive to society. Programs in my day like Andy Griffith show, Happy Days and All in the Family had positive messages like teaching kids not to lie, steal, cheat or do other bad things. It’s as if the shows now teach absolutely none of that, or even the exact opposite.
- I think you envy the characters and the life they supposedly lead for some reason.
The shows portray people living in extravagance, so you feel that what you have is not enough. I think your generation feels deprived of something. I also think these shows push the envelope of what’s appropriate for television. The language, nudity and so forth. Kids are being exposed to things they shouldn’t too early. Your generation seems to feel like wholesome, what I’d call normal, type shows are nerdy and boring. You’re just interested in the shock and awe factor of a character’s language or how little they wear, etc.
- I enjoy shows that match my hobbies and interests.
I like to watch old westerns, outdoor and hunting shows because they’re real and I like those activities. I like being outside and I like seeing places I’ve never been before but would like to visit. I like comedy shows for obvious reasons, they make me laugh. I also like history shows too because they teach something I didn’t previously know or explore an area that I’ve never been. Again, real stuff. I believe when reality TV started they did try to capture reality, like the Deadliest Catch, and others. But it seems like they quickly ran out of material so they started developing these made up conflicts between individuals on the show to try and keep it interesting.
- There are great improvements made from generation to generation, but I also feel as though we lose some things too.
Like family time while eating dinner every night, playing games, not watching so much TV and having to be more creative in passing the time. Kids don’t get the exercise they used to. We would walk or ride bikes everywhere. We’d play football, baseball, roller bat, wolfman—which was really “hide and seek”. It was just a different time, but if we grew up with the same technology your generation had we would probably be and do the same.
- These shows encourage people to have drama in their lives.
Life is hard enough without creating conflict just to generate drama. What about just being happy and enjoying all that life has to offer? Creating drama where there is none is not healthy or productive. Believe it or not, some families do get along and they don’t have that conflict at all times. I think that’s actual reality.
- The fake drama of regular television shows became boring to my generation.
Think about the horrible acting in soap operas. I have no idea how people ever watched them, and I’m baffled that they still run episodes. We don’t want to see people failing at acting; instead, we’d rather watch them pretend they’re not acting at all, that it’s their real life.
- We like to connect with people!
My generation is all about the connection. You can now have conversations with brands that before just fed you information through advertisements, and we want that with the people we watch on TV. We like that their lives appear just similar enough to ours to make it relevant, but just out of our reach enough to make it entertaining. Watching the shows with friends is the best part. It becomes a social experience that spreads across all online platforms and even in everyday conversation—especially if you live in my house. There’s still a separation. Yes, we love to watch and talk about the drama and stalk the stars’ social media accounts, but we don’t have plans to drop out and work for Lisa Vanderpump any time soon.
- Real life courtroom dramas like the O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony trials sparked our interest first.
The widespread prevalence of “real life drama” resulted from the increasing access broadcast stations were gaining during times of famous court cases such as the O.J. Simpson trial. News ratings spiked at the onset of this “real life American drama” and it became much like a TV series where citizens tuned in each day to keep up with what was happening. It was only a natural progression to go from that to what we have today…not to mention the small fact that one of the key defense attorney’s is America’s favorite family’s father. Random coincidence? I think not. It’s all tied together, and that’s what is cool.
- I know that reality TV is not real life; I think we all do. But that’s the point.
We realize that the large dinner parties are staged. The Hills definitely made the staged aspect of reality television clear on their season finale. The point is, it’s entertaining and lends itself as an impartial topic of conversation that’s safe to broach in most all (nonprofessional) settings. What’s a better link to discover than a mutual hatred for one reality star?
- I’m not going to stop watching it just because you explain to me how fake it is.
How many of you still call Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc “Chandler and Joey”? I know Jennifer Aniston’s career expanded way past her tenure on Friends, but Courtney Cox will always be “Monica” to me. We already pretend the characters in our favorite shows are real people, the only difference in reality TV is that the characters are real people pretending NOT to act.
My dad finally conceded,
“At the end of the day, I do think both generations are great but can improve by being more productive and positive members of society by volunteering more, taking better care of ourselves and helping the less fortunate.”
I do agree that the abundance of conflict in these shows creates a false sense of reality to impressionable audiences that may be influenced by it. I also appreciate his point to enjoy the things that life has to offer—drama free. Maybe father does know best on these subjects. Or perhaps it’s this dystopian theme that we as humans are enthralled with in general. It seems to be the common thread between the popular types of television series. Regardless, I enjoy the reality drama just as much as I enjoy the acting drama in shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.
Cheers to happiness and kindness,