Now that summer is almost upon us, you know what’s coming: reality shows. And you know what’s coming front and center on the reality show bandwagon – Contestants Who Miss Their Kids. Argh!
If you’d told me ten years ago that I could sit through visuals of people weeping for their children and feel nothing more than mild (sometimes even extreme) annoyance, I would have called you a liar.I mean, what kind of monster do you think I am? (Don’t answer that!)
I don’t have any of my own – and God knows I’m not in any kind of rush to get some anytime soon – but if I chose to have a child, through either adoption or childbirth, and had to cut myself off from all or most contact from them while undergoing stressful amounts of competition… I would not be a happy person.
Reality show contestants are frequently unpleasant people and even if they’re normally nice people, the mind games they eventually play to win the game renders them hideous – if forced to share quarters with people from any of the shows (and that includes you, Amazing Race!) I’d either be crying into my pillow every night or manically strangling towels named after my housemates in the bathroom every few minutes. When you add the stress of living with these strangers to the stress of carrying out tasks (or performing for that matter) while being recorded all the time, it’s a wonder more people don’t snap.
Digression: Actually, I’m stunned we don’t get to hear more about the behind the scenes drama on American Idol. There must have been some fun times in the Idol house when that Norman guy was put through this year, for instance. It’s the only time I’ve ever felt it’s too bad they don’t have a confessional camera. And in the same vein, the only show where I totally buy the on-camera camaraderie is So You Think You Can Dance. I don’t know why but the top 12 couples always look like a truly supportive group, maybe because they’re divided up into couples who have to trust each other for the simple reason that their physical well being often depends on it.
But really, who looks at a contestant on Top Chef or Project Runway or whatever, sobbing because they can’t speak to their kids as often as they like or because they aren’t there to tuck them into bed at night the way they always do, and doesn’t roll their eyes – at least a little? Be honest! You’re a much better person than me if you don’t.
There’s a tinny quality to the whole thing, perfected in the Idol audition clips I think – “I’m singing for my daughter! This means so much to my two year old! That one, there on the rug. It’s all about her, not me! Yes, the one who’s fussing because she’d much rather be playing with her building blocks. But don’t worry, she’s really invested in Daddy’s success! Aren’t you sweetie? Don’t poke me in the eye, you little – erm. Ha ha, she’s such a little pistol, isn’t she? Daddy’s gonna win for you, baby!”
Meanwhile all baby wants is some mashed up banana and a Barbie doll to dismember. Oh, and a nap. That would be really awesome, thanks.
And if the “contesting for my child” nonsense isn’t enough, the kids come in handy for a passive aggressive goodbye too. “Yeah, I’m getting kicked out because the judges think I suck. I’m happy though because I’m going home to my baby. It’s been so hard for me to concentrate here because my head’s over there with my child. But it’s all good. At last I know where my place is – no. No sir, not at the bottom – it’s at home, see? With my child. But it’s hard, I won’t lie. I really wanted to do this for her. Now I’ve got to go home and tell her Daddy couldn’t do it. But I know she’ll understand that the reason I couldn’t was because I loved her too much. Yep, she’s still two. A very smart two.”
Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, maybe they really do feel that way about being separated from their kids. In which case I’ve got a tip: stay at home. Coz nothing in life comes without a price tag attached. I learned that from the teevee. Which cost a lot of money.