Real Family Life or Reality TV

tv 2As much as I would like to say that I take pride in the fact that I am not an avid television viewer, the truth is, I actually long to spend more time in front of the television. Ahh, to lounge by the fire with a hot cup of tea, nothing to worry about except whether or not the mystery/infidelity/murder/heinous act/incurable illness will be solved/exposed/punishable by law/cured by the end of the episode seems like a cozy euphoria that I can only imagine.

In reality, my television viewing consists of disjointed bits and pieces of shows and commercials glimpsed while I fold laundry and accomplish a myriad of mundane household tasks, few of which require undivided attention.

Add the TV knowledge vicariously acquired at the proverbial water cooler and I can’t help but recognize a few somewhat twisted and comical parallels between my family’s life and at least the titles of some of these shows.I’m pleased (and relieved) to report it’s not the endless versions of C.S.I. and Law and Order that illustrate these similarities, but rather, for the most part, the shows with real, live participants.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire
My 11-year-old son often asks unusually well-crafted hypothetical questions about large amounts of money. Although more complex, the basic premise is always the same: But really, what WOULD we do if we won 10 million dollars? My reply: “You can’t win if you don’t play!”

The conversation concludes with Nick grappling with what he considers a senseless injustice: he can’t quite understand why, if our family had 10 million dollars, he still would not be allowed a 42-inch flat-screen TV and Playstation in his bedroom.

Fear Factor
On weekends, we attempt to feed our kids foods that we don’t have time to prepare on weekdays. These meals cannot be considered exotic by any standards, but the kids behave as though we’re trying to serve them revolting concoctions containing whole scorpions and blended pig eyeballs. Seven-year-old Elena regularly and emphatically states that she’s “NOT eating THAT” with the same intense disdain that I imagine would be appropriate for the truly unappetizing Fear Factor Fare.

Deal or No Deal
As the sequel to Fear Factor, this is the basis of the discussion about whether or not there will be any dessert following dinner. Dessert? Or no Dessert? Younger family members must eat a pre-determined number of forkfuls before moving on to the next stage of the meal. My husband, Callum, does his best Howie Mandel impression as he claps his hands together toward the kids and says, “Nick and Elena, Open the mouth.”

So You Think You Can Dance?
In their own little world that appears to revolve around various forms of “dance school,” “dance party” and the ever popular “dance performance,” my daughter and her friends often announce an upcoming, impromptu recital and request that they not be disturbed until otherwise instructed.

They begin by screening, choosing and meticulously listing their songs, which are eclectic mixes ranging from the Beatles to Raffi. Next, they rehearse, create tickets and arrange chairs for optimum viewing. Finally, they call the parents in to watch.I’m pretty sure I recognize many of the steps as ballet, jazz, and even hip hop; it’s the skillfully choreographed, little-known dance genre in which all of these girls appear to have received in-depth training that I can’t recall having seen before. There’s flailing, but it’s deliberate and confident; clearly, they do think they can dance.

…the grocery list, the second mitten, the tape when we need to wrap a gift for a birthday party that begins in 10 minutes… Other than commercials, I’ve never seen any of this show before, but the name intrigues me and urges me on… my car keys, the overdue library book, the CD that belongs in the empty case …

The Amazing Race
All day, every day our lives are a test of physical endurance and mental and emotional stability. I regularly bolt up the stairs, two, sometimes three at a time, only to wonder once I reach the top… what AM I up here for, anyway? Troubled by the unnecessary clutter in my mind that prevents me from remembering, I slowly descend the stairs. Once at the bottom, I remember what the critically important item was, and at high speed, make my way back up the stairs.

Entertainment Tonight
Many of our evenings provide a dose of comedy – life with children is genuinely amusing… and tragedy – the dramatic pleading for one more story, another glass of water, the urgent and sudden need for a band aid…

Whatever the conversation, or the reasoning employed, the level of entertainment rivals anything the celebrities can dish out.

originally published in the Waterloo Region Record