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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Reality TV

I despise a vast majority of reality TV.

I despise it for many, many reasons.  The editing.  The manipulation of its audience.  The subject matters.  The lack of morality.  The fact that it is only so prevalent because it is cheap to make (little writing + high ratings = $$$) and because of a writer's strike.  There are a few that at least attempt to be educational, and I can stand those.  Heck, I enjoy some of them, but they aren't your normal "reality TV" fare.

The reality TV I watch is usually things like Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch, Storm Chasers... picking up a trend?  These are all on Discovery.  There are a few that aren't on Discovery as well.  I had thought that these kind of reality shows were immune, or at least resistant, to most of the negatives that surround other reality shows.  There's no sex, little violence, it teaches you stuff, and the editing can't go THAT far, can it?

Apparently, it can.  Now, for some shows, like Mythbusters and Survivorman, there are hundreds of hours of footage for one one-hour episode, so of course lots is going to be cut out.  But they aren't cutting things out in such a way as to make you think that Jamie and Kari are in a tempestuous relationship when they aren't.  And I really, REALLY hate it when my emotions get manipulated in such underhanded ways as editing.  It is one of the reasons I am skeptical about commercials, previews, and trailers.  And sex... I'm not a prude, but I don't need someone to use sex to sell me something.  This is why I can't really get "into" Game of Thrones.  I'm sure it's well-written and entertaining, as all my friends enjoy it.  But they introduced me to it on what has been dubbed the "porn-episode."  And my gut reactions was this: if the writer(s), whoever they may be, feel that they need to turn to such blatantly gratuitous sex and nudity in order to captivate and entertain the audience, then I don't need to waste my time on the show.

But all that aside, I found out today that, no, Discovery is not able to resist the allure of questionable editing.

I have been waiting for the second season of Gold Rush to hit Netflix, and it just did.  So I watched the first episode.  If you are not familiar with the show, allow me to sum up the pertinent parts of Season 1, as the audience was shown it.

A group of 6 men, Average Joes desperate for money, lease a gold claim in Alaska and have a hard time figuring out how to work together and dig the land.  The owner hires one "Dakota Fred," a seasoned mining veteran.  Fred and the Hoffman crew (the 6 guys) do not get along at all.  At the end of the mining season, the crew finally discover "pay dirt" (gold), and Fred drops the bomb that he wants to mine the land on his own next year.  The crew makes very little, only $20k.

At the beginning of the 2nd season, the crew makes as much in 3 days as they made in most of the season the year before.  They have found the pay dirt.  While they are doing that, Dakota Fred goes to the owner and it looks like he convinces the owner that the Hoffmans are bad for the site, so the owner sells Fred the property.  Because they didn't pay their lease at some point during the winter, Fred doesn't have to honor their lease terms.  He essentially kicks them off the land and decides to mine it for himself, after they did all the hard work.  That is the end of episode 1.  I have not seen further, yet.

Well, that sounds like a rather underhanded thing to do, doesn't it?  I figured there had to be more to the story than that.  So , I did a little online digging.  Fred released a statement about the situation a while back.  I will not claim that this is the truth, but it is closer to the truth than what we have been shown.  Apparently, the Hoffmans asked to be let out of their lease.

Now, that certainly makes him look less villainous, doesn't it?  It's all about editing.  And it is a little annoying that Discovery would do that for their ratings.

I have to ask, however, why they asked to be let out of the lease.  I can think of several other pieces of information that are still missing from the picture.  I would be grateful if anyone could fill me in.

1) Did Dakota Fred convince the previous owner of Porcupine Creek to sell by providing him with... selective information?
2) Did the crew decide to be let out of the lease, or was it all their leader's decision?
3) What fueled the decision?  Was it an animosity towards Fred (who got under their skin because he knew what he was doing and they didn't, but, like many people I've recently discovered (including many on the crew), has poor social skills)?  Was it because they had a better offer?  They needed ratings?

The editing leaves so much out it irks me.  The facts could paint Dakota Fred as anything from a relatively innocent victim of reality TV editing to a walking, talking douche with glasses.  Not surprisingly, people are keeping quiet about the matter.  And this begs another, even more vitally important question.

So what?

So what if Dakota Fred made an underhanded fiscal decision that will land him big bucks?  Does it matter if he's a saint or a sinner?  The REAL truth is that I will never meet the man, I will never talk to him, and this has no real impact on my life.  It is once again a manipulation of my emotions, trying to get ratings by painting someone as a villain.  It is a temptation to sin by trying to make me hate a man based on lies and deceit.

And that is why I hate reality TV.

The other reason?  It can be addictive.  I may still end up watching the rest of Gold Rush, despite the nasty editing.  But I will most certainly be keeping that skeptical eye on things.  Remember, we see what they want us to see.

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