Reality tv dating game shows
In the same vein, Pozner tells the story of Toccara Jones, a curvilinear model—she describes herself as “vivacious and voluptuous”—who was the sixth runner-up on the third season of “America’s Next Top Model.” In a pitch-perfect impression of a “Top Model” partisan, Pozner derides the verdict of Tyra Banks, the show’s materfamilias (who declared Jones to have “lost her drive” and “checked out”), and lists various post-show successes: “To the rest of the mainstream media, Toccara is recognized as one of the most successful African-American plus-size models working today.
To reality TV producers, she’s just a fat Black girl who needs to lose weight.” But isn’t she pointing to one of the form’s greatest strengths?
There is an expectedly acerbic analysis of “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” one of the first shots fired in the current reality revolution (it aired on Fox, as a one-time special, in February, 2000), in which the winner of a televised beauty pageant agreed to marry, sight unseen, a “multimillionaire”—who, it later emerged, was possibly a thousandaire, and definitely the target of a restraining order filed by a former girlfriend.
That show was a gleeful train wreck, powered by its female contestants’ desperation to be picked, which is to say, married.
“Reality” is, if not quite a misnomer, a provocation—a reminder of the various constraints and compromises that define the form.
Certainly, “reality television” is an amorphous category; Mark Andrejevic, a cultural theorist, notes that “there isn’t any one definition that would both capture all the existing genres and exclude other forms of programming such as the nightly news or daytime game shows.” If Mead were alive today, she might be surprised at the diversity of the form, which has proved equally hospitable to glamorous competitions, like “American Idol,” and to homely documentaries, like “Pawn Stars,” which depicts the staff and clientele of a Las Vegas pawnshop.
The same people who brag about having seen every episode of “Friday Night Lights” will brag, too, that they have never laid eyes on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Reality television is the television of television.
Starting in 2004, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, an African-American contestant on Donald Trump’s business competition show, “The Apprentice,” became reality television’s preëminent villain, possessed of an impressive ability to enrage the people around her; Pozner scrambles to explain this phenomenon without casting aspersions on either the antiheroine or her legions of detractors.