I have to confess that I like a little reality TV in my life. I’m not talking about most of the shows out there that might come to mind first, consumed with backbiting and stealing other people’s boyfriends. I honestly don’t even know the names of most of those shows, or what happens in them, because the few episodes that I’ve watched are just too uninteresting to me. But there a few out there that I actually enjoy.
“America’s Biggest Loser” intrigues me with the internal/emotional work that the contestants go through and also the competitive/sports side of me really likes the physical challenges they go through and watching the trainers do their jobs.
“Amazing Race” is our household favorite, and (after about midway through the season, when a lot of the “drama” has been eliminated from the race) Daniel and I LOVE living vicariously through the racers’ trip around the world and all the challenges and victories they face. It always opens up interesting conversations for us about how we would have approached the various obstacles (or at least how we think we would have approached them, from the very unrealistic and non-sleep-deprived perspective of our very comfortable sofa).
“Expedition Impossible” was a pretty good summer substitute for AR, though not as fun (we left the country before it finished though so please no one spoil the ending for me).
Sometimes I like “Survivor,” but often it’s too trashy for my taste anymore.
This summer I got caught up in “Love in the Wild.” I know, you might judge me for watching a dating show. I justify it by the fact that they’re out in the jungle doing challenges together, plus they are seeking long-term relationships, so it’s deeper than just a fling. But I admit it was borderline soap opera-ish. Guilty.
Despite enjoying these shows which I think are for the most part harmless (and some even worthwhile), I can sometimes find myself feeling too sucked in, wanting to unwind from their tentacles. One of the things I sort of looked forward to about our time in Australia was being away from all of that. And for the most part, I do find myself spending a lot less “low-quality” screen time here (I still am on my computer but it’s usually blogging or Skyping or writing).
I do still need to unwind sometimes. And TV is good for that. Especially when you’re in a foreign country. I’ve never lived overseas very long before, so I haven’t had a chance to discover this but it’s actually really interesting to channel surf in a foreign country. Of course getting out in the culture itself is the best way to learn about a culture, but when you’re tired and just want to curl up, foreign TV can still give you a taste of the culture and daily life here (or at least what people are interested in). I did watch a bit of TV when I lived in England for a semester, but I couldn’t understand half of what was being said, so I lost interest very early on. Sorry Brits. (No need to be ashamed though, of course. You gave the world the Bodleian Library for crying out loud.)
So one night a few weeks ago, Daniel and I watched Aussie TV. It was fascinating! I made Daniel watch the last 10 minutes of some cooking show about a woman named Poh (?) who travels around Australia cooking unique specialties from each region. She dived for oysters and then ate them fresh. Or something like that. I thought it was interesting. Daniel became absorbed in something on his iPad.
Then another show came on – a game show. I can’t remember what it was called but it seemed to be a kind of music trivia show for people in the music industry. Most of them seemed to be famous Australian musicians from all backgrounds – one was an opera singer, one was part of a wild rock band in the 70s/80s, etc. They were on teams of 3 but the show seemed more about their interactions with each other, the audience and the show host, than about winning, and it was pretty amusing. Especially if you don’t know much about the culture, this was an interesting way to learn. The trivia questions were all about Australian music, but also music as it relates to Australian politics, current events, history, etc.
The last show we watched was my favorite. It was actually a reality show! But the reason I like it is for how non-reality-TV it is, in every way. It is called “The Farmer Wants a Wife.” And it is adorable.
There are a bunch of guys who are all farmers. And they all want wives. And there are a bunch of normal-looking, normal-sized girls who want to be those wives. I’m not sure if they have any say in which farmer they are matched up with, but at the point we jumped into the show, they all had dreamy looks in their eyes as they gazed at their farmer.
One of the farmers even looked to be in his late 50s, and his “ladies” were all in the same age bracket. I don’t think anyone would watch a dating show like that in the US. But from all appearances, this show is huge here.
When we switched it on, each farmer was narrowing down his gaggle of probably a dozen girls, to his favorite three, and these 3 would go out to his farm and stay a few days (all of them together, the farmer with all 3 girls). The different activities they would do on the farm were geared toward discovering which of the girls was best suited for the kind of life the farmer had on his farm and the specific work he did (ie. one was a dairy farmer, one raised sheep, one was fruits/vegs, etc). So qualities like being resourceful and adaptable really made some of the girls stand out, because the farmers are seriously looking for women who will make good helpers for them in their life work.
It seemed like prior to this episode there had also been a relationship aspect to the show – who was attracted to whom, who connected with whom, etc. So it wasn’t like they view marriage as slave labor or something, or like dating here is a lumberjack competition, with a winner picked purely on the basis of how fast she chops that wood. But it was so sweet that they all kind of seemed to come at it with the view, “Well of course all these girls are beautiful and kind and sweet – I’d be lucky to marry any of them! But which one will be the best helper for me?” Such a far cry from Hollywood, where dating shows seem to be mostly about a guy trying to find the girl with the hottest body and the least brattiness.
I have since seen billboards referring to an Australian version of “Biggest Loser,” but… I don’t think I need to go there right now. I think one show is a enough for me.