In Defense of Reality Television

I’m ready to say it. Or, rather, shout it from the rooftops.

I love reality television.


Reality. Television. That oh-so-useless entertainment form that some decry should be wiped from our earth forever. 

And here’s why.

Over time, I’ve noticed that one of the-most commented on aspects of my personality is this very fact. Although I don’t know why, exactly, I think it likely boils down to some nuclear combination of a) the fact that I appear somewhat intelligent, b) the fact that I appear busy, and c) the fact that I appear serious. As a result, when folks first mine me enough for personal details to find out about my passion for this strange life form, they end up tripping over themselves with such statements as, “You?!? I would never have thought! That just doesn’t seem to fit with your personality.” Or, “What could you possible see in that garbage?” Or, “But you seem so serious.”

But see, I’m not all convinced that reality television is that bad. Or, rather, worse than any other form of sometimes-needed relaxation.

Here’s my defense.

(In three points.)

1. People Judge Folks Who Watch TV, Often While Underestimating Their Own Viewing Time

It is a fad with smart people to watch no television. And some of these people truly – watch no television. This is wonderful, and admirable, and should be the case with all children (I believe). But many fine adults, I find, forget that sports is, well, television. The very same coworker who claims he doesn’t watch TV may be the same guy on the couch for 6 combined hours on a weekend for a combination football/golf extravaganza.

2. Reality TV is Just as Bad as Other Television

Cue the above sports comment. I have long wondered why reality television has such a bad rap, when much of the world spends hours each week watching other people bash their heads in on a green field. Especially considering that, for people like me with less than no interest in sports, that entire genre seems just as base. Who cares that folks compete in sports? (A point once raised to me.) They do so in reality television as well. Who cares that sports brings families together? So does reality television (cue my mother and friends.)

3. When Not Overused, Television Can Be Relaxing

Yes, I know that I enter a near vegetative state when watching television. Yes, I know that my brain functions while reading, but not while watching TV, thus making reading an infintely more valuable activity. (And thus why I read 150 books a year.) But do I want to veg out, do nothing, and go comatose sometimes? Yes. And I should be allowed that pleasure, without scrutiny.

So, do you watch television? (Or would you ever admit to it?)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “In Defense of Reality Television

  1. In terms of reality TV, I occasionally search for street cams to see what other parts of the world are like at the moment. I think people like House Hunters International or Survivor for a glimpse of another place.

  2. Hello Claire, success of reality TV could not be explained if all the people”not watching” reality TV where truly not watching it.. So your self defense is good to open the door to the key question being “Why?? What’s inside reality TV that make it so successful but regrettable at same time?”….

  3. Hi Claire, I personally have no time at all for ‘so called’ reality television and that is kind of the reason. Don’t get me wrong I love TV; NCIS, CSI etc. But when something is advertised as ‘reality’ TV and is often so obviously staged, it annoys the heck out of me. Dating shows that are decided beforehand, so called documentaries following obese people who have no intention of losing weight and these ones that put people so diverse together out in the middle of nowhere just to watch the fireworks or put them through degrading ‘challenges’ I simply have no time for. For me TV is escaping the day to day, if I want reality it’s just outside my window!Lol P~

  4. Claire, this was such a refreshing post. I don’t watch reality TV at all, but I have my own dirty little secret: I watch TV while I work. I work from home and every day, and with the exception of occasional coffee outings with friends or the odd business lunch here and there, I just sit (or stand) at my desk and work all day, popping out to throw in a load of laundry while waiting for an email or giving myself a “break” by going to the grocery store (something that I love to do). Usually, sometime between three and four PM, I’m ready for some noise… stimulation… distraction…call it what you will. So I put my iPad on my desk and turn on my Netflix app. I watch a lot of Law & Order (there are so many variations of this show available on Netflix, and they are all so similar you don’t have to pay much attention to them. They’re also set in NYC, where I lived for 12 years, so it’s a little glimpse of “home,” and I occasionally see friends who were guest stars.) Other shows I will put on are Friday Night Lights (my favorite series of all time) and, believe it or not, Murder, She Wrote.

    Sometimes I feel guilty about how much time I spend with TV shows running on my iPad. But then I think about how much I get done on an average day, and I let myself off the hook. I’m very productive, my clients are happy, I manage to get to the gym several times a week, and my brain has not, yet, turned to mush.

    • Hey Christy — I’ve totally done that as well when working from home. And, I often do it to Law and Order. Preferably SVU.

  5. Thanks Claire… I applaud your honesty and frankness in calling out all of us who watch TV and yet look down our noses at the “others” who must watch far more than us and therefore be less intelligent… yep, I’m a hypocrite.

    While not reading 150 books a year, I skim about 50 and read The Economist, Time, Wired and Fast Company faithfully. Also, I have a wife and 2 year old and my own business (in that order)… I need downtime (everyone does) and I need time when I don’t have to be figuring out a problem sorting out logistics or changing diapers. So I indulge in the reality TV of the “bashing-their-heads-in-on-a-green-field” – variety… and whenever possible, I go out there an bash in some heads of my own.

    Thanks again for the fresh dose of vulnerability.