Is it Real or “Reel”?

I have had enough of reality television!

Actor Gary Hudson

Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors. The genre has existed is some form or another since the early years of television (primarily with game shows), but has expanded significantly since the Big Brother series first aired in 1999.

Programs in reality television genre are commonly called Reality shows and often produced in series. Documentaries and non-fiction programming, such as news and sports shows, are usually not classified as reality shows. Reality television frequently portrays a modified and highly-influenced form of reality, utilizing sensationalism to attract viewers so to generate advertising profits. Participants are often placed in exotic locations or abnormal situations, and are sometimes coached to act in specific manipulated ways to create an illusion of reality through editing and other post production techniques.

I am here to tell you I have had enough of those Kardashian girls and their sordid lives, and that woman with eight children who should be at home attending to those children instead of promoting her boring high jinks. I ask you, do we care about those sorry “New Jersey Housewives”? If we do, then we have lost an interest in the discovery of our own lives.

The game shows of the 1950s such as Beat the Clock, Truth or Consequences, or Bet Your Life were just game shows and were entertaining. They did not follow the contestants to their home to find out what they were eating and if they got along with the neighbors next door. Privacy was respected. I think it was the all-revealing tabloids that set the stage for bringing unknown people with their lives to television and calling it “reality.”

It was PBS in 1973, which produced An American Family and which showed a nuclear family going through a divorce. Unlike many later reality shows, it was more or less a documentary in purpose and style. The 1970s provided The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and the Gong Show. In the 1980s, Cops aired, giving us all an insight into the daily activities of those guys who have to deal with every issue, from domestic violence to cold blooded street shootings.

When 2000 arrived, we were suddenly inundated with what they called “reality.” But there were writers and directors calling the shots for what was believed to be REALITY. I call that REEL. I don’t mind Survivor. I met one of the reality people from that show, Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth. He had scars at the bottom of his feet from the antics he had to go through in that series. “Ozzy” has been working with me on the “Lost Treasure of Nicholas and Alexandra” project. Ozzy recently spent almost a month surfing along the coast of India.

The Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, and American Idol contribute to the entertainment of the American audience. Do we really care about Runway, America’s Top Model, or Paris Hilton and her escapades? And the worst of all those shows is Cheaters. I find that one to be an insult to the American intelligence.

In preparing this column I wanted to speak to a professional actor. I called my good friend actor Gary Hudson who is currently on location shooting a film in Canada. Gary has been performing for over three decades on the big screen and in television. He has been featured alongside Patrick Swayze in Road House, Battle In Seattle, with Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson, Eye of the Killer with Kiefer Sutherland, She’s Too Young with Marcia Gay Hardin, and A Season on the Brink with Brian Dennehey.

In 2009, Gary starred in the Canadian television series, Wild Roses. He was nominated for Best Actor for the role he portrayed at the Monte Carlo International Film Festival and was guest of Prince Albert of Monaco. Gary is one of those actors that seem to always be working. I sat down with Gary last week before he left to shoot in Canada at his Venice, California, condo to find out what he thought about Reality Television. Gary Hudson on Reality Television:

Q. Has Reality Television hurt the professional actor?

A. Yes!

Q. How?

A. It has taken the primetime television slots. I see reality television as the “dummying down” of America. The middle class is ceasing to exist.

Q. How do we remedy the problem?

A. We have to stop celebrating a woman with eight children and a guy who tracks down people who jump bail.

Q. I understand you trained with many of the major stars?

A. I studied with Patrick Swayze, George Clooney, and Ted Danson. Those guys paid the price to gain the ability to shine whether on the big screen and television. It is demeaning when shows, like the OC and Jersey Housewives, are looked upon as a performing artist. It is very troubling.

Q. Do you think people will do most anything to get in front of the public?

A. Most assuredly. Take that family who reported their son was floating away in a balloon while all the time he was in the closet at the family home.

Q. If you could speak to all America about reality television what would you say?

A. We had great television in the 1970s and 1980s. All in the Family confronted the reality of life through Norman Lear’s amazing episodes of that show. Boston Legal makes us think and question what is going on around us. I say to America, demand television that portrays the true art of the professional actor.

If you care to comment about this column, please e-mail me at pattebarham@hotmail.com.

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