Friday, March 21, 2008

Reality TV Worth Watching


Reality TV.

I can't believe I watch it much less am here writing about it, but with the writer's strike this year, I decided that I'd venture deeper into the realm that many people find so fascinating.

I admit that I was a fan of Survivor when it first aired. I enjoyed the show all the way through the 3rd or 4th season and then it lost its appeal. Much like American Idol has for me now.

Since I tuned into Dancing With The Stars late in the game, I'm still impressed by the ability of the professional dancers to teach complicated steps to, for the most part, untrained celebrities and by the ability of these people to learn them so quickly. The competition between Mel B and Helio last season made for great television. And, of course, much of the enjoyment is when you share your arm chair critiques with a friend. For me, that's my friend Kelly in Calgary, Canada who remains faithful to the show even though she's locked out of the voting process. Last season Helio Castroneves won my heart, this season it looks like it's going to be Steve Guttenberg. While he is not the most agile with his body, Steve's personality and smile are absolutely engaging. Hopefully the show will do for him what it appears to have done for Marie Osmond.

So, I decided to move deeper into the murky waters of reality TV.

Immediate sinkers: Big Brother, The Apprentice, Cops (OMG, people actually watch this show?) , MTV and VH1 shows (been there, done that, learned from it, don't even want to watch anyone else having to learn or not learn the same lessons), Laguna Something or Another, and Survivor.

Those that rose to the top: Along with Dancing With the Stars, three other reality shows caught my attention and have kept it: The Biggest Loser, LA Ink, and Ace of Cakes .

First, NBC's The Biggest Loser. What an amazing transformation these people go through right before our eyes. While I am NOT a proponent of anything containing artificial sweeteners, I do like the other messages this show delivers while helping to transform these people's lives. Not only is this show educational in the way to eat a more healthy diet, but the message of weight loss through a combined change in lifestyle of exercise and eating habits is tremendous. Now, if American parents can just learn that feeding their children a diet of fast food and soda pop is as equally detrimental to their children's bodies as it is to the habits their children will be forced to break later in life, then this show will have really served an amazing purpose. I've never understood parents who feed their small children pop, fast food, and surgery desserts, then punish the children when they can't be controlled, are being loud and unruly, and are bouncing off the walls. Helllooo, how are those little bodies supposed to break down that much garbage and remain calm and well mannered in the process?

For me, the biggest winners on The Biggest Loser are Bernie and Brittany. They both posses the most incredible inner strength, beauty, and joy and they stood out from the crowd simply by the way their personalities shined above everyone else's. Watching each contestant on the show move closer to their individual goal weight is inspiring and heart warming, but both Bernie and Brittany brought me back every week to root most especially for them. With 6 contestants left, who will be the Biggest Loser?

Next: TLC's LA Ink. What a ride this show is! Kat Von D and her crew bring new meaning to artistic talent. Tattooing has been a part of human culture for centuries. Some consider it a desecration of the human body and others see it as a means of expression and beauty. I fall in with the second group. While I do not currently have a tattoo, I know exactly what I want when the time is right for me to get one. And I can't wait!

What I love about this show is that everyone has a story. Discovering why someone chooses the tattoo they do is a great lesson in tearing down stereotypes. And this show teaches that lesson very well. Watching the creative vision and human compassion intertwined within each tattoo artist artistically come to life on this show is cause for a return visit each week. Kat Von D, Corey, Kim and Hannah each posses an artistry that is jaw dropping. And how they take the emotions from stories of their clients and encapsulate them into a tapestry on skin is beyond me. But, it's beautiful to watch.

One important element of the show is no longer at the front desk. Pixie. Will she return? As goes with real life so goes with reality TV. Life is about relationships and this show is no exception. A bitter fight took place between Kim and shop manager and former Fear Factor game show winner, Pixie and Pixie appears to no longer be in the picture. Drama in LA...who knew!? Stay tuned to see if Pixie was meant to be in Kat's life for a reason, a season or a life time.

Finally, Food Network's Ace of Cakes! If the artists of LA Ink bring new meaning to artistic talent, then Duff Goldman's crew at Charm City Cakes are breaking all rules to create an entirely new category in the world of art. With patience, faith, and a personality that makes you want to call him friend, Vespa riding Duff leads this team of low energy, slow speaking, and what appears to be barely moving, mind blowing artisans on one of the funniest, most clever, most imaginative, and most enjoyable 30 minutes on TV. At the heart of the show are Duff and Mary Alice.

Duff Goldman graduated from pastry school and went on to turn the cake decorating business upside down. Wanting the most talented people he knew working for him, Duff tracked them all down, which wasn't too difficult because they all happened to be his friends.

Mary Alice Fallon Yeskey, very much the glue of Ace of Cakes, serves as a type of narrator, commentator, and all around hysterical voice for the show as I'm sure she does within her daily job at Charm City Cakes, Duff Goldman's real business in Baltimore, Maryland.

Charm City's unbelievably talented group of artists who are really more like engineers, inventors, painters, craftsman, architects, and sculptors all brilliantly combined into these individual human bodies are some of the most talented, slow speaking, and yet funniest people on TV today. And they're real people.

Ace of Cakes will blow your mind. This is not your typical food show. Not at all. This is Home Improvement meets Rosanne (as with Rosanne, dry, funny sarcasm reigns on Ace of Cakes) meets M*A*S*H meets Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White's "cooking show" host character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show). Non stop fun occurs as each of the show's theme cakes take shape, is eventually completed, and delivered to the client.

As reruns of your favorite dramas begin to emerge or if you lost interest in the shows that disappeared during the strike or if you are lost without the return of Jack Bauer or if you are like me, just plain tired of listening to the exact same "best political team on TV" voice their exact same opinions over and over and over again, then be inspired, motivated, and entertained by reality TV's cream of the crop: Dancing With the Stars, The Biggest Loser, LA Ink, and Ace of Cakes.

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