My PR recaps started as a fun writing exercise. In Season 9 – three+ seasons, two All-Stars, and almost exactly two years ago – I was aggravated with the limitations moderated into the TWoP message board, so I thought I’d see if I could do whole recaps. I played with it as time went on: given a limited time, can I convey some information that goes beyond Project Runway (the amazing 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, a New Yorker cover capturing the art of fashion updates, unicorns, marriage equality), or even a theme for the season (art vs commerce, the use of narrative in “reality” tv)? It was, for a time, fun.
It’s not fun anymore. PR has become downright offensive to me.
I’ve been telling myself, it’s ok, I’m ridiculing them, exposing the artifice for what it is. But who am I kidding: there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and by posting links and such, I’m supporting, however obscurely, something I’ve come to despise.
The final turning point came last night when they aired Ken saying, “I need a gun.” Yep, when all else fails, trot out a Scary Black Man. They just put Howard University’s “Do I Look Suspicious? ” campaign out of business (addendum: this is not in any way to defend Ken’s obnoxious behavior). This follows the Week of the Scary Russian. Is the Republican National Committee a sponsor? To add insult to injury, in the preview there’s Tim “I Used to Be a Hero But Now Will Pimp Anything For Heidi” Gunn in a camouflage-patterned business suit talking about “glamping,” and I don’t even want to know what the gather-round tears are about.
I’ve had enough.
I love competitive reality TV (I even included a nod to the genre in my final paper for my Fiction of Relationship class) in spite of the artifice that’s part of the entire genre; I like comparing my impressions with that of the experts, and I frequently learn something. I’ve learned a lot – I knew nothing about fashion before PR – from the Bravo years (and I still learn from Top Chef). When done right, RTV can be an entertaining introduction to a new field: “Oh, that’s what godet/rubbing seconds/spherification means.”
I’ll admit I’m also fascinated, in a sick way, by what these shows have now become (planned dramas), and the underlying reason: reality is boring. People want story. And the mass market wants stories they already know: poor kid makes good. Pride goes before a fall. A hero, a villain. Find a way to cram in some yogurt or cars, pre-select a bland winner whose work fits some current marketing niche, and you’ve got Heidi too busy counting her money to care about what some obscure blogger says.
But even car wrecks lose their fascination if you watch them long enough, especially when the car wrecks are choreographed to provide maximum gore. Enough.
I’ll miss many aspects of recapping. I’ve become very fond of TBone from Blogging Project Runway, and of course my small band of regular commentors. I’ll miss the challenge of finding something to care about in an episode, a challenge that has grown every season. I may still dive into obscure topics like unicorns or the original Aunt Jemima or the wolf pack mentality when so inspired; penny-ante research is my recreation. And I’m not giving up reality TV entirely; I’ll see you for Top Chef New Orleans in October, and either Zin or I will be around for The Sing-Off later in the year. And of course I have a blast with literature: I smacked down Madame Bovary (the character, not the book, which is hilarious) and Zadie Smith in the same week, and once in a while I even stumble across a highly intelligent zombie novel for people who hate zombie novels.
But no more Project Runway recaps. I’ve had enough.