I’m really thrilled to be joining The Working Stiffs as a regular. I'll forego the formal introductions since I've pretty much covered a lot of the personal things about me with Jennie Bentley's help. I will add that my first novel, A Reason For Dying debuted last month and things have been extremely busy. For me, I have a very full time day job with a big beer company and travel pretty much, including many trips to China. Three years ago, for some reason, I decided to write a novel. It started as a whim, quickly became a passion and now may be blossoming into a second career.
When Joyce sent me an e-mail asking me to sign on with The Working Stiffs, I didn’t hesitate to respond. Since then, I’ve pondered what to blog about on my debut as a regular. Then last week I found myself getting misty-eyed watching the television, thankful that I was alone in the house. Me, the MAN in a household of women and I’m getting emotional watching the TV.
It gets worse. I’m watching the finale of So You Think You Can Dance. Yep, that’s right. When Courtney Galiano was booted off the show and she gave this very emotional “Thank you” speech, my eyes started burning and I got all stuffy. The same thing happened when the judges gave their heartfelt praise to each of the final four. There, I said it and it’s out in the open. Not only do I watch a dance show (actually I like Dancing With The Stars too), I’m emotionally invested in it.
I began to think that maybe I was a reality show junkie and I needed help. But then I realized that there are plenty of shows that never caught my interest; Big Brother, The Bachelor, not even Last Comic Standing. I’m a huge Survivor fan and I also love The Amazing Race and The Biggest Loser. I started wondering what it was that piqued my interest and my loyalty to certain shows and not others. For me, it all began in the Summer of 2000 with Survivor Borneo. And the first winner, Richard Hatch.
There was an interesting concept, a clash of cultures and personalities with few rules and people in a raw setting. The producers did a great job of letting us into their lives and getting to know these people. We either liked them or hated them, but we thought enough about them to have feelings one way or the other. Moments like the conflict that culminated with Susan Hawk’s near-famous speech to Kelly Wigglesworth and Richard Hatch intrigued and entertained.
And the rest is history. Reality shows began popping up all over and most have gone away just as fast. Some endure, however.
Why is that?
Certainly the concept of the show has something to do with it, but it goes way beyond that. I think it’s all about emotional investment. Just like a great character in a great book, we connect with certain things, we share their emotions and begin to feel what they feel. Actually when it comes to character development, reality shows are a bit like a novel. The producers only have a finite number of episodes to hook the viewer on the characters or the story just like an author has a finite number of pages to do the same. And the really good producers and authors do it well. I guess TV pilots are like those first 5 pages of the novel, we give the producers an hour to capture us and we give an author 5 pages to do the same.
Okay, I’ll stick with reality shows. Most shows kick people off one or two at a time. Some by the other contestants and some by popular vote. Sometimes the deciding factor comes down to some kind of talent, but in most cases it’s character that determines who stays and who goes. Back to So You Think You Can Dance, they call it America’s most popular dancer. So, even though the judges have the ultimate say near the beginning of the competition, the final say-so comes from voting - 60,000,000 votes cast in the finale. At the beginning of their final show, they brought out their top 20 dancers. I barely remember the first 10 that left. Now I know my memory is NOT what it used to be, but I struggled to remember who some of these people were and this season of the show only ran for about ten weeks. I realized I didn’t remember them because I didn’t care about them.
When it comes to books, I was a big Jack Ryan fan. For those of you that didn’t read Tom Clancy’s books, Jack Ryan debuted in 1992 in Patriot Games and had a long career. I’m searching for the next Jack Ryan. Right now I’m interviewing Jack Reacher (Lee Child’s hero). In the meantime, I guess I’ll be sitting on my couch, sniffing over dance shows and waiting for Jack Bauer to come back for the next season of 24 and Jack Shephard from Lost to mess with my head some more. Maybe I’m just captivated by the name Jack. Hmmm, there is Captain Jack Sparrow (now there’s a character for you).
So how about you? Any closet reality show criers out there? Be honest. What are some of your favorite series characters?