Recently, I spent hours upon hours looking at reality television shows. As I watched in earnest, I kept wondering what is real and what is staged. As a documentary producer, I always kept the camera rolling and whatever happened happened, and those were some of my best moments in the productions. But reality television seemingly catches a lot of emotions, attitudes and outrageous actions. But is it real? Or is it created to keep the audience loyal to the show?
My favorite reality show is “Undercover Boss,” because of its favorable depiction of Black employees; Black men in particular. And my very guilty pleasure is “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” I can’t wait until its new season begins. And I do like the genius that’s involved in “Project Runway;” those designers never cease to amaze me.
In a recent press release, VH1 announced it will produce a record 44 original series in 2010 “to further build on the network’s connection to young adults and their hunger for programming centered around music, celebrity, and real life stories.” The cable channel claims that 40 percent of their shows are now about music, and this new slate will delve into real life stories like the nine young rich girls suddenly cut off and forced to live a “normal” life in “You’re Cut Off,” which starts in June.
“Diary of a Hip Hop Girlfriend” is sure to be a hit with the young people. This docu-soap series follows four women who share a common bond: They understand the joys and pains of being in love with a big-name rapper. Sure, there’s the glamorous lifestyle, full of bling, Bentleys and mansions. But behind closed doors, they struggle against shifting loyalties, baby mama drama and the huge shadow cast by their larger-than-life partner.
“Diary” sounds a lot like “Basketball Wives,” which is currently running on VH1. The wives are so proud of their little exclusive clique but living in fear because their husbands are surrounded by younger, morally deficient women who could care a less about a wedding ring. These sisters are not afraid to confront these women, and it’s fun to see how both sides try to play it cool, knowing they want to scratch each other’s eyes out. Nasty.
Then there’s “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business,” which is about sibling rivalries, a controlling a mother, and a know-it-all father, who coolly observes and then tries to bring peace. Tensions will rise as Brandy attempts to rejuvenate her career and Ray J tries to clean up his bad boy image. Lots of drama.
“Fantasia For Real” has been renewed, but it seems to me her family is sucking the life out of her. No wonder that girl has got problems.
My heart went out to Chili of TLC, in “What Chili Wants.” Girlfriend is looking for a man and brings in love expert Tionna Smalls to help her find the man of her dreams. The challenge is made difficult by Chili’s checklist of things she expects in her man and by championship boxer Floyd Mayweather. They started as friends but Chili wants more, and she thinks he does too. But the last episode I saw, Mayweather stood her up. It was sad.
Okay, here’s another one of my guilty pleasures “RuPaul’s Drag Race 2.” Who will be the next drag queen superstar? Talk about ‘catty,’ nasty comments and dra-ma. This show has it all. The contestants have to excel at different challenges, and if they don’t meet the requirements they go home. It’s funny, deliciously nasty, and I can’t help but marvel at how good these men look in make-up.
It looks like reality shows are here to stay, but be careful, you could get hooked. For more on these shows and past episodes, go to vh1.com/shows.
Gail can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.