A hypothetical: Someone I am trying to impress asks me for my favorite TV show. I would probably say something like Party Down, Freaks and Geeks or Undeclared (I would say Arrested Development, but I think it’s too mainstream now). Preferring shows that were cancelled after only a few seasons and featured celebrities before they were famous, I seem like a true television connoisseur with impeccable taste: the ultimate TV hipster.
Here’s another hypothetical situation: I tell the truth. My favorite TV show, and I’m not saying it’s the best TV show, is The Bachelorette (side-note: The Bachelorette is way better than The Bachelor because it’s just pathetic to watch a house of bikini-clad girls fighting over one stupid jock, whereas it is hilarious to watch a house of jocks fighting over an evening gown-clad blonde with a tragic backstory). Not far behind The Bachelorette, are other reality TV shows such as The Millionaire Matchmaker, The Hills, What Not to Wear, Top Chef, The Only Way Is Essex and, most recently, Breaking Amish.
Say what you will about reality television, but you know you would be lying if you said it wasn’t entertaining. I may love Mad Men with every fiber of my being, but if all I’m looking for in a TV show is a quick shot of laughs and drama while I paint my nails, I’m not going to put in the mental energy required for watching it.
Reality TV shows are like the Mallomars of the TV world. They are delicious, addicting and you tell yourself you’re not eating junk food because of the whole deal with the chocolate. For the Mallomar-ignorant among you, the quality of the chocolate is supposedly too good, and the coating too thin, for them to be sold between April and October because they would melt. In other words, Mallomars, just like apples, pomegranates and other foods that are good for you, have a season. So, even though you know that, ultimately, Mallomars are no better for you than Oreos, you ignore that unpleasant nutrition information and tell yourself it’s just like eating an apple (I feel like Nabisco should be paying me).
The same is true for the supposed “reality” of reality TV shows. When I started watching Breaking Amish a week ago, I was enthralled by the drama between these four young Amish and one Mennonite exploring New York City for the first time. I was obsessed with the blossoming relationship between Rebecca and Abe, and loved hating Jerimiah for his antiquated views about women’s roles in society. I rooted for Kate as she pursued her dream of becoming a model and teared up when Sabrina, who was adopted, reconnected with her Puerto Rican roots.
Then, I received some disturbing news: Breaking Amish isn’t real. Apparently many of the cast members had left their communities as many as 14 years prior to the start of the show. Also, Abe and Rebecca have a child. So that episode when Abe asks Rebecca out on their first date...
Later that day, whilst purchasing Diet Coke from 7-Eleven, I spotted the cover of a magazine which insinuated that The Bachelorette’s Emily Maynard had paid the winner, Jef Holm (who, by the way, should never have won because Ari was totally better for her), to pretend to be with her for the sake of the show. It was a dark time for me.
This traumatizing day reminded me of a similar earth shattering experience: the airing of the series finale of The Hills, when the producers of the show essentially admitted that the entire show was fictional. As Brody said his final goodbye to Kristen, the camera zoomed out and revealed that the pair was actually on a movie set and that the palm trees and Hollywood Sign behind them were only a backdrop.
Everyone knows that reality TV shows are just as scripted as soap operas, that no relationship begun under the scrutinizing eyes of the American public is genuine and that Mallomars are just as fattening as any other junk food. But I don’t want to know that. Reality TV shows are entertaining and Mallomars are delicious.
So I will continue to watch Breaking Amish, because frankly, I don’t care that Abe and Rebecca have been together for years. Stop telling me that reality television isn’t real, because I know and I don’t care. Please, producers of reality TV shows, don’t pull any more Hills finales on me (I actually sort of thought that finale was brilliant, but don’t do it again). I accept reality television for what it truly is: a delightful treat consisting of a marshmallow on top of a graham cracker with a thin coating of pure chocolate.