Friday, April 06, 2007

America is Voting

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted and now here’s a long one! For awhile my silence was partially because it was Winter and a lot of the good shows ended or went on hiatus and pretty much the only thing on was Beauty and the Geek. It’s also been because I’ve been immersed in writing my new book. But now there is SO MUCH TO WATCH it is really quite ridiculous. I’m currently following The Amazing Race, The Bachelor, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Top Design, The Apprentice, and America’s Next Top Model.

I’ve also recently discovered that lots of these shows can be watched on the station websites. You can go there whenever you want and download the video and there are fewer ads. It’s great if you missed an episode or if you want to see Heather Mills do her walkover again. But you know what? It’s just not the same. I find that I like to watch along with America.

Come to think of it, I must be feeling more American than ever, because I was one of the relatively few people to watch The Great American Dream Vote hosted by Donny Osmond. While watching this show, I had a conversation with my husband that I never would’ve believed we would ever have. My husband, who is not a TV watcher in general, walked in the room when it was about half over, sat down, and could not get up. He was fascinated by this show. I think because there were two husbands on it who were so incredibly in love with their wives. They just could not say enough about how wonderful their wives were, and how honored they were to be able to go through life with them. My husband could not believe the amount of praise and affection these two men were heaping on their wives in public while shedding tears.

It came time for the studio audience to choose between the fireman who wanted to open a flower shop for his wife, the guy who wanted to have a professional sing a love song he wrote to his wife, and a woman who wanted to open a dog rescue shelter. That’s when my husband asked me, “Is America Voting?"

“No,” I said, astounded to hear those words come from his mouth.
“America isn’t voting. The studio audience is voting."

“Who is that host?" he asked.

He prides himself on not being able to recognize celebrities. “Donny Osmond."

“The singer?"

“Is there another Donny Osmond? He looks kind of like my brother, don’t you think? If his face was fat?"

“You’re wrong," he said. “Donny just said America is voting."

“No he didn’t. I’ve been watching. The studio audience votes."

“He just said it. America is voting."

Turns out we were both right. The studio audience chose the woman who wanted to open the dog rescue shelter. (There was something fishy about how much those men were into their wives.) Now it was up to America to vote on the two finalists. The dog lady would be up against the previously chosen finalist: a bald guy who wanted a hair transplant.

America chose the bald guy. I guess America identifies more with hair than dogs. After all, Sanjaya is getting pretty far based on his hair, right? Anyway, The Great American Dream Vote has since been cancelled. Lousy ratings. Reality Show voter apathy. Meanwhile they’re saying Idol is setting records -- 33 million votes or something when Gina Glockson got cut.

I think America cannot take on all this responsibility the networks are foisting upon us. America had to vote for those Grease actors, and they have to vote for Dancing With the Stars, and now Donny was just asking too much of us to have to make these decisions.

For the record, as American as I may be feeling these days, I do not vote. These contestants have made friends on the show. They have dreams. I really don’t want to have to struggle within myself to decide who I will plunge into misery. There’s always so much crying and sadness when people have to leave a show. Nobody wants to go home. Now they will be back on the couch like the rest of us, stuck in front of the television set – expected to vote.

At least on The Bachelor and Top Design other people – professionals, for gods sake -- have the responsibility of inflicting all this unhappiness. At least on Amazing Race it’s up to the players not to be last. It’s so sad when Phil tells them they’re eliminated from the race, isn’t it? Every show there’s another "little death." But at least the contestants usually manage to find something positive to say about the experience and how much they’ve learned, or grown, or bonded with their partner -- and that helps me feel a little better.

Now that more than a few seasons of reality shows have come and gone, I am worried that I’ve gotten emotionally involved with too many people. I can’t even remember who most of them are. It’s like they never existed. Then they pop up in a magazine or on the web or in one of those Top Model marathons and it comes back to me. I can remember how upset I was when this one or that one was sent home…

And then there are the ones who keep resurfacing, like Rob and Amber. I’m so glad they got knocked off The Amazing Race. They really got on my nerves, so overconfident. I’m dreading the day Rob appears on Dancing with the Stars.

At this point I’ve worried about, rooted for, felt relieved for, felt sad for, felt happy for, been annoyed by so many people... I can’t help but wonder. Will I run out of empathy at some point? Will it stop mattering who gets kicked off and who stays? Will I care less who gets their dream and who ends up back on the couch? What happens when there are dozens of American Idol winners out there – all of them trying to sell records? Will they all need to compete with each other so we have one best, best, best winner again?

Would people watch? Would people vote? Or will everyone run out of empathy?

Will America stop caring?

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