Really annoying ‘reality’ shows

There’s so-called reality, there’s documentary, and then there’s sheer entertainment.

May 30, 2013 12:22
3 minute read.
Big Brother

Big Brother. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Right now, much of Israel is glued to Big Brother, which runs on a special pay version of Channel 20, with highlights broadcast daily on Channel 2. Perhaps Big Brother, in which a diverse group of Israelis live in a house in Neveh Ilan with no outside distractions as the cameras roll, is the ultimate in reality shows. In any group of Israelis, you’ll find someone with opinions about the contestants. It certainly doesn’t lack drama: Just this past week, Gili, a graphic designer from Petah Tikva, was censured after making racist remarks to Tahunia Rubel, a model of Ethiopian descent from Beit Shemesh. A few weeks ago, Roni was kicked off the show for making homophobic remarks to Levana, who is a lesbian.

While it’s certainly a reality that there are many Israelis who are racist and homophobic, reality shows set up situations in which these kinds of conflicts will flare up, by choosing participants who are likely to get into conflict with each other. The producers follow certain sets of rules, but the whole concept is a manipulation of reality. Many people find this entertaining, apparently, both in Israel and abroad. Reality shows are extremely profitable, partly since they are very cheap to produce. While the participants are paid something, their compensation doesn’t compare to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode to the cast of a show like Friends, for example. So it’s understandable that executives love the reality format.

But it’s hard for me to understand the popularity of such so-called reality shows. Even if I believed they were, in fact, unadulterated reality, I would prefer to watch anything rather than a group of unpleasant people bickering with each other.

Too many of us experience this at home, where we can’t change the channel. If I want to hear Israelis screaming at each other, all I have to do is go into any public place. When I watch television, I would rather see either a wonderfully scripted show by someone like Tina Fey or Matthew Weiner, or a documentary by a disciplined filmmaker who shapes the material carefully to illuminate certain facts.

And speaking of documentaries, throughout the month of June the YES Docu Channel is broadcasting documentaries from the recently concluded DocAviv International Documentary Film Festival. Dana Idisis’s moving film Turning Thirteen follows the preparations for the bar mitzva celebration of her younger brother, Guy, who has autism. As the mother of a teenager with autism, I admit I have an intense personal connection to the subject, but it’s a complex film that is about the whole family. The film will be broadcast on June 19 at 9 p.m. and on June 22 at 10:40 p.m. It will also be available on VOD.

Avner Ben-Yair’s The Big Leap is another recent documentary that will be shown on YES Docu. Ben-Yair became intrigued with the Breslav hassidim and their mobile mitzva vans. He began making a film about them a decade ago, and during the course of the filming became a Chabad hassid himself. The film chronicles the work of those hassidim who go out into the street trying to promote observance, as well as his personal journey. It will air on June 5 at 9 p.m. and again on June 8 at 10:40 p.m., as well as on YES VOD.

If you’d like something a bit less real and a bit more glitzy, check out the mystery series Deception on HOT 3, starting on June 12. It stars Meagan Good, best known from the movie Brick, as a female detective who goes undercover for a wealthy family she grew up with, posing as the maid’s daughter to solve the murder of the heiress who was once her best friend. Good is certainly beautiful; and while the series doesn’t break new ground, it may give you a nice break from reality.

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