Originally, at least if I recall correctly, so-called “reality television” were shows like COPS. We’d see video of police officers doing their ‘real jobs’ and what happened while they were on patrol. Then you had various medical shows popping up on the cable stations, which showed operations, procedures and actual footage of women giving birth. That was about as REAL as you could get.
Somebody over at MTV came up with the idea of “Real World”. Here we would follow the daily lives of a group of Generation X types, forced to live together in an apartment or house. Each season the show would feature a different group in yet another city.
With the introduction of SURVIVOR everything seemed to change. You didn’t have folks dealing with remotely ‘real’ situations, but rather placed in totally strange environments and made to compete against each other in physical and psychological fashion. Shows as different as BIG BROTHER, TOP CHEF and AMERICAN IDOL now compete against each other for Emmy and People Choice awards. Where is the reality in any of this?
All that leads up to this:
Donna and I are actually enjoying “ARMED & FAMOUS” which started last week on NBC. If you haven’t seen the show, or the commercials, I’ll explain the basics. You have five “C” list celebrities undergoing three weeks of ‘boot camp’ training and becoming police officers in Muncie, Indiana. We’re treated to some of the training, their graduation and taking of the oath, followed by their being paired with senior patrol officers. The following shows are comprised of the nighttime patrols of the various celeb/officers fighting crime in a small urban environment. If not for the fact that the five individuals are already well known the show might be little more than second-rate COPS. In fact, many of the encounters the officers have are exactly the same as those you’ll see any evening on COURT TV or Saturday night on Fox.
The series stars actor Erik Estrada (probably still best known as ‘Ponch’ from CHiPS), La Toya Jackson (the other Jackson sister, who like her brother had a bit of work done) Jack Osbourne (fresh from rehab and a couple of years of being straight), Trish Stratus (who is known to WWE wrestling fans as a former seven time Women’s Champion), and Jason Acuña (a.k.a. "Wee Man" on Jackass).
Estrada actually seems to have brought some of the skills of his character to his current time in uniform. Osbourne & Stratus appear to be taking this very seriously, which is hard to believe having watched Jack for all those seasons on his parent’s show. It is hard to take either Acuna or La Toya totally seriously, in first case because you know a police department would never hire somebody of his physical stature (although he really does give it his best in some situations against larger criminals). You get the impression that, like her brother, La Toya, really hasn’t had much contact with the everyday. From her phobia with cats to her total confusion about shopping you feel that she has never had to actually fend for herself. You find yourself laughing, but then you begin to feel bad for her and actually feel sympathy.
There are only a couple of more episodes, but I recommend you give it a try. There are certainly worse ways to waste an hour.