Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Real of Working in Reality Television

Recently while engaged in one of my least favorite activities--grocery shopping--I was approached by a young woman. I turned slightly and immediately noticed the hat pulled low over her forehead and the dark tinted shades. Either she was a celebrity incognegro or someone who was about to hit me up for money.

As it turns out she was neither. After "excuse me" came, "Would you like to be on television?" After a short pause to stop the "hell to the naw" tickling my throat, I politely replied, "No". But curiosity led me to ask, "What show are you working on?" She unfolded a sheet of paper and upon reading the title I laughed to myself. This girl was doing the job, I had interviewed for just two weeks before. I literally had met my competition.

During the interview, I was told my background was not suitable for the position. And as I looked at the young lady I realized my interviewer had a valid point. I've never had a job that I felt I needed to hide my identity to do. In fact, I had always done the opposite to make a potential show guest more comfortable with me and the production I represented. But when you're booking characters, not just people per se, who are willing to make fools of themselves on national television, I understand why the woman may have felt it necessary to distance herself from the people she booked. Though we didn't talk much at all, the hidden face said a lot. It's a numbers game, nothing personal. The more characters she convinces to fill the camera frame, the better for the show paying her bills.

I got into television to dispel myths and stereotypes, not to visually perpetuate them. But lately I've noticed a willingness to do just the opposite. Ghetto messes, hot and otherwise, are being produced for our enjoyment and ratings prove we're watching. Am I hatin'? Yes! I'm hating the fact that there's not much on tv to balance out all the mess we see. Those of us raised on Good Times or The Cosby Show know the difference. There's a fine line between laughing with someone and being laughed at. Obviously in reality tv, that line has become blurred.

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