Cable television is heating up for the fall season, in competition with the networks. Each year, the cable channels steal away some of the viewers from traditional shows on network television. Personally, I can’t recall watching any network TV show on a regular basis recently except for “24“.
The fixation with reality shows continues. On the standard viewing circuit, the typical competition shows, complete with drama prevail. “American Idol“, “Dancing With the Stars“, “America’s Got Talent“, “Survivor“, and so on, have replaced sitcoms.
But cable has taken the concept of reality TV down entirely new and somewhat fascinating paths. In addition to entire channels devoted to true crime (Investigation Discovery Channel) with new series from “The Coroner“, “Homicide Hunter“, and others; there are some extremely odd reality shows garnering a lot of viewers.
“My 600 Pound Life” on TLC, follows morbidly obese people through their weight loss journeys. The show captures their eating addictions up close and personal, causing anyone watching to question, “How could anyone possibly eat so much?” But after a few episodes, the voice-overs of the participants all have the same mantra.
They all see the same doctor, Dr. Nowzaradan. (Dr. Now) who either praises them for weight loss or sternly reprimands them for not sticking to the diet, whereupon they either get mad or break down and cry.
Heading into his office for a weigh-in, their voice-overs will state, “I hope Dr. Now will be proud of the number on the scale today. I’ve worked very hard…” And invariably, they leave his office with their voice-overs saying, “I’m so proud of myself right now…”
Most of the time, by the end of the show, the participants are far from their weight loss goals, so the show has created a spin-off called, “My 600 Pound Life, Where Are They Now?” I like this one better because the weight loss is utterly amazing and the people are back to being functioning and happy adults.
Yesterday heralded the return of “My Strange Addiction“, also on TLC. It is a show about people with, well, very odd, and often life threatening addictions: A man who loves pool inflatables – I mean, REALLY LOVES THEM; a woman hooked on baby wipes, another who can’t stop eating sand, or another who eats toilet paper, and so on. Some are not able to be discussed here out of pure disgust. All of the people seem to be willing to seek help from a therapist, but many are unable to kick the habit.
Other shows which have been around a while are stealing more viewers each year as they become well known “Tiny House Nation” on FYI, is an interesting show about people who want to live in very small homes to minimize their carbon footprint. A couple of guys who are the builders are challenged to meet the needs of the buyers to get everything desired into a very small environment – usually around 600 square feet.
Of course, “Hoarders, Buried Alive” (TLC) is back with a couple of spin-offs now. It also has a “Where Are They Now?” follow-up and a “Family Secrets” variation. The gross fascination with people living in dangerous conditions of uncontrolled clutter is more attractive to watch for many than competitions and drama.
Many folks are regular viewers of “Storage Wars” and “Pawn Stars” and all the remodeling shows which are more mainstream.
The networks still have the grip on reality and cable channels have a long way to catch up. However, they definitely own the oddball shows.
The odd reality shows do fascinate me. If I want to see a healthy competition, I prefer to watch a good MLB or NFL game over a staged singing show. Otherwise, weirdness on display in a wacky world is my outlet that is stranger than fiction. Give it a try.