Sucked in by the idiot lantern

Morning, rise and shine, right, here’s yesterday’s column, in case you missed it.



I’m a bit of a sucker for reality TV. Please don’t hate me for it. It’s a guilty pleasure I was hoping we could just keep between us.

Much like other guilty pleasures (like ice-cream and unsuitable men) it can’t be good for any of us in the long run. Sometimes you can physically feel yourself losing brain cells as you sit there watching and drooling. But by then it’s too late, the grey matter is long gone, so you may as well at least stick around and see who gets voted off this week.

They’ve got reality shows for just about everything these days. If you think you can dance, if you think you can be a bounty hunter, if you think you can cook, if you think you can marry Hugh Heffner, if you think you can survive on a desert island, if you think you can spray tan.

There are reality TV shows set in rehab and hospitals and soon outer space I’m sure. Reality TV for morons and douchebags and housewives and sixteen year olds having their birthdays, and sixteen year olds having their babies on their birthdays. There’s no depth we haven’t plundered, and this is only just the beginning.

One of the more horrendous ones I came across recently is called Bridalplasty, where brides-to-be in America do challenges to win plastic surgery before their big day. Decorate the best cake and get Botox, beat the other contestants in a wedding dress relay race and win a boob job. It’s pretty horrific. Who knows what the groom will find when he lifts the veil on wedding day.

And I haven’t even started on The Discovery Channel’s reality offerings yet. It’s kind of the guy version of reality TV. Most guys will turn their noses up at Reality TV, unless it’s on The Discovery Channel, then it’s somehow okay. The channel gives it a manly legitimacy. Guys will tell you The Bachelor is rubbish, but are quite happy to switch over to Discovery and watch a man stuck in the desert drink his own urine to stay alive. They’ll tell you it’s not reality TV, it’s a documentary. Um, sorry, but same difference!

I have a mate who calls TV ‘the idiot lantern’. Maybe he’s right. But there’s something incredibly enjoyable and relaxing about watching some of this mindless crap, even if it is the equivalent of going out and getting a lobotomy on an arbitrary Tuesday night.

It suddenly occurs to me that there is one reality TV show they haven’t come up with yet. One for writers. They could call it ‘Who wants to be an author?’ or more appropriately, ‘Who wants to be a starving author?’ or ‘Project Rejection Letter’ has a nice ring to it too.

The formula could be the same as any other reality show. Bring in a cast of writers who are sure to clash, stick them in a house together, add some booze and extreme pressure, and start filming.

There would be the neurotic one, the arrogant one, the hot one, the activist one, the funny one, the bastard, the one with low self-esteem, the one with a borderline personality disorder, the chain smoking alcoholic drug addict, the hipster, and of course the paranoid one. It would be carnage.

They could compete against each other in weekly writing elimination challenges, like ‘Spot the bad apostrophe’, ‘How to live below the poverty line’, or ‘There’s nothing to write with, now what are you going to do?’ until there’s only one author left slumped behind a typewriter in a pool of his own serotonin.

Or even better, let’s pit different kinds of genre writers against each other. For example you could have Marian Keyes (chick lit), Dan Brown (dick lit), and JK Rowling (cash lit) writing against the likes of literary fictionistas – Salman Rushdie, JM Coetzee and V.S. Naipaul and of course they should throw in Paris Hilton, just for good measure. What? Of course she is a real author, she wrote the bestseller Confessions of an Heiress!

The only real problem I can foresee is that writing isn’t much of a spectator sport. There’s not all that much to see. I just finished my second novel so I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s not the most glamorous thing you can do with your clothes on. If by clothes you mean the same pair of elastic-waisted pyjama pants and a grubby sweatshirt, eighteen days in a row.

There is also an inordinate amount of time writers spend pre-writing, which includes such exciting activities as tidying your desk, avoiding actually writing, surfing the net and calling it research, answering emails, drinking, smoking, hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, and of course, watching reality TV. None of which makes for particularly riveting viewing.

Perhaps that’s why the TV makers avoid the writers and stick with brides willing to kill each other for a little bit of bum liposuction and a nose job.

3 responses to “Sucked in by the idiot lantern”

  1. Ha Nick, funny.
    i wrote three different come backs to put in here, but none were as funny as yours so i deleted. 🙂

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