Secret Millionaire: While other reality TV shows deal with people getting into catfights, getting drunk or just acting plain stupid, Secret Millionaire is a show that highlights the plight of people living in impoverished cities in America and features the work of people who are trying to make a difference in their community. In the show, a multi-millionaire is sent to live in an impoverished city for a week. This “secret millionaire” goes under-cover and finds worthy causes to donate a minimum of $100,000 of his or her money. For the first five days of the week, the secret millionaire looks at many different volunteer opportunities and organizations so that, on the last two days, the secret millionaire can reveal to the people in charge of the organizations that he or she is a millionaire and is going to donate some of his or her money to help their organization.
In the first episode of season two, secret millionaire Dani Johnson met with many people who were in charge of a variety of organizations, from an organization that redecorates the rooms of children who are terminally ill to a soup kitchen called The Love Kitchen where two elderly women serve and deliver free homemade food with love and affection to people in need. In the end, Johnson donated $100,000 of her money to all of the causes that she learned about while helping them over the course of her first five days.
Although each episode is set in a different city and has a different secret millionaire, every single episode is capable of bringing tears to the viewers’ eyes. The greatest thing about the show is that instead of purely showing viewers the plight of different people, it also shows people being helped by the donations of the secret millionaire. While the amount of the donations are small to the secret millionaire, the look on the people’s faces when they receive the money is pure happiness. In a time when many shows feature unrealistic, soap-opera style drama or inappropriate behavior, Secret Millionaire is certainly refreshing to watch.
Shedding for the Wedding: Recently, the entertainment segments of Hollywood have exploded with an excess of reality TV shows that provide almost zero viewer satisfaction. Combined with the latest trend of weight loss programs, the concept of being fit is being warped into a race for some convoluted and twisted prize at the end of a tunnel. In all honesty, I do not have anything against the idea of losing weight or becoming a healthier individual. But TV shows like Shedding for the Wedding have gotten it all wrong.
Shedding for the Wedding is a entertaining series in which engaged couples compete against each other to lose the most combined weight. Throughout the episodes, the couples participate in ridiculous tasks to win different parts of their wedding dream, including bridal dresses, invitation cards and silverware to serve on their “big day.” It seems sweet that these couples are putting so much effort towards their wedding, except that the love and romance of the situation completely evaporates into shallow physical wants. When one couple gushes over its victory of the perfect floral arrangement, the fiancé says, “It’s almost become like a celebrity wedding, things you only see on TV.” Since when did a ceremony that is meant to promise love and a life of happiness turn into a need to throw the most glitzy and glamorous party?
Many of the couples on the show do not even need to spend weeks trying to fit into a dress just one or two sizes smaller than before. As usual, there is a wide range of contestant sizes, all slightly over the average weight line. But some of these couples appear to be only several dress sizes above something you or I would wear. Nor is it necessary to be spending so much thought and energy into winning silverware or invitation cards used by Hollywood stars. Marriage should be about the people involved and not the thousands of accessories used during the wedding. Shedding for the Wedding just further enforces the idea that reality TV has commercialized every aspect of American lives, even the most important declaration of love.
Toddlers & Tiaras: The competition for “most revolting reality show” is fierce. However, TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras could very well take first place. The show profiles young girls (and, on occasion boys) as they navigate the world of child beauty pageants.
Cameras follow three contestants throughout the week preceding the pageant as they prepare and compete. Viewers are invited to watch as the girls are spray-tanned, fitted for fake teeth and forced to repetitively practice their “routines” for hours until they are perfected. While some of the children are very into the pageants and are just as fierce about winning as their parents, other children seem to want to enjoy a normal childhood, and have to be coerced and bribed with promises of money and toys.
Not only are the over-the-top beauty products appalling, so are the morals that the parents instill in their young children. The message the show sends, that beauty is everything, is certainly not something that should be taught to kids. By judging girls based on categories including facial beauty and modeling, it becomes ingrained in the children’s mind that being beautiful is a must and that if she loses the competition, it is her own fault for not being pretty enough.
With all that said, probably the most objectionable part of the show is the sexualizing of the young contestants. A majority of the pageants feature a “swimsuit” category in which the little girls run around the stage in skimpy bikinis striking various risqué poses. Not only that, a large proportion of the other outfits the girls wear would be something you would expect to see on a Las Vegas showgirl, not on a four-year-old.
The show is an unbiased portrayal of child pageantry but one has to consider the fact that by paying the families to appear on the show, TLC is essentially endorsing pageantry. Some of the things the parents do to their children, such as forcing a 5 year old to have her eyebrows waxed, is bordering on child abuse. Watching this show means supporting this controversial industry, which is just unacceptable.
Jersey Shore: Anyone who owns a television has heard of Jersey Shore. A show created in 2009 by ingenious executive producer SallyAnn Salsano of Music Television Network (MTV), the reality series follows the crazy lives of eight housemates living together in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Every Thursday night, a new episode featuring the latest bar brawl or drunk hookup airs, capturing the attention of eight million viewers nationwide. While the show isn’t exactly the classiest series, it is without a doubt good reality television show.
Jersey Shore has received a lot of criticism for supporting the Italian-American “Guido” stereotype, portraying New Jersey in a negative light and encouraging excessive use of tanning beds and sprays. The cast members are crude and lack a certain amount of dignity at times, and their daily routine of sleeping through work and drinking until the sun comes up isn’t exactly the healthiest lifestyle. However, the eight housemates are extraordinarily talented at doing exactly what television is meant to do—provide entertainment. Every episode is like its own soap opera; the amount of petty, albeit hilarious, drama that circulates through the house exceeds even that of a middle school dance. Every cast member is outrageous in his own way—they’re like Saturday Night Live performers without the parody. The quirks and eccentricities of each housemate makes every one of them ridiculous, but one can’t help but love all of them after watching a few episodes. Yes, Snookie eats deep-fried pickles and doesn’t like wearing underwear, but that’s what makes her so fun to watch. The housemates have even spurred new slang, like “grenade,” which is an unattractive woman and “G.T.L,” which stands for gym, tan and laundry, both terms which are frequently heard around campuses in Palo Alto.
People often forget that television is just television—watching the show doesn’t change the viewer as a person. If that were true, tanning salons would be overflowing. Television is simply meant to entertain, and no show does it better than Jersey Shore. Furthermore, a lesson or two can even be picked up from watching the series. For example, don’t drink until you puke and don’t get in a relationship with someone who describes herself as the “sweetest bitch you’ll ever meet.” Jersey Shore may be seen by some as a horrible show lacking taste, but let’s face it. It’s so bad, it’s good.