Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Best Reality Show On Cable

Cable news gives viewers an unparalleled choice of alternative shows.  We can watch as much general news, business news, sports, independent movies, classic movies, movies targeted specifically for women, etc. All running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The list is practically endless.

One unique type is the reality show.  It started with shows like Oprah, Jerry Springer, Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, Montel, and Dr. Phil. These shows featured a host trying to help an individual and/or family. In some cases, exploit an individual or family.

These shows morphed into productions that center less on the host and more on actual people. You know what I mean, a show that centers on "real" people. In some cases it is a bunch of kids in a house, a bunch of adults in a house, a bunch of adults on an island, a bunch of adults in homes on a beach, a bunch of cheerleaders, a bunch of adults trying to be an apprentice to a rather self-centered CEO, a bunch of mothers helping (I use the term loosely) their daughters in dance competitions, a bunch of kids in a band, a bunch of ladies trying to gain a modeling contract, a bunch of dancers, a bunch of singers, a bunch of dress makers, a bunch of men helping people dress better, a bunch of performers...And the shows just keep coming.

As you watch a few of these shows, sometimes it appears that the conflict is manufactured. Of course the music adds to the drama.  After a point you wonder who and what is real and what is not.   

For people who know me, know that I do not watch reality shows.  Exceptions to the rule, I have watched “The Apprentice” with my family.  And my wife and daughter got me hooked on “Dance Mothers.”  Since my daughter dances competitively and I have gone to her competitions in the past, this is one show that I can definitely relate to.

However, one of my favorite reality shows is one of the oldest reality shows. It has been running for decades. And the show? It is C-SPAN’s continuous and unfiltered Washington Journal.  It runs every morning.

The show always has a viewer call in.  The first segment is usually with the moderator and later in the show with think tank staff, elected officials, high ranking government officials, pollsters, reporters, editors, and others.  During the viewer call in with the moderator a topic is presented for discussion and sometimes the moderator reads excerpts from a newspaper, that of course is marked with a yellow highlighter. The guest or guests sit at a table with the moderator and answer questions from citizens calling in. 

Now a word about the C-SPAN moderators. They are first rate. Brian, Pedro, Steve, Susan, Libby, and Greta are experts at handling angry and difficult callers. Nothing ruffles them. If a caller is unbelievably rude, any one of the moderators will simply say, we have others who want to call in, thank you caller. Callers are prescreened.  Any one of the C-SPAN moderators would be an outstanding negotiator or diplomat.  All are well informed, intelligent and well read.  And I get the sense that they really enjoy their job.

This is a reality show at its best.  Viewers from all over the U.S. can call in, ask questions to a guest or chime in an opinion with the moderator. A diverse group of people call in every morning, usually to a line for democrats, republicans or independents. You get a very good sense of the people's frustrations, what news story sticks in their minds, what facts they recall, their analysis of a story, what they read, their fears, and their thoughtfulness on issues.  We are a diverse nation with so many different and unique ideas. Now granted, these are not always expressed well, but that is the beauty of reality TV according to C-SPAN.

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