Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Reality TV snares another victim; I am now part of the problem

Duff: Reality TV snares another victim; I am now part of the problem

I am now part of the problem.

For years I’ve complained about the declining quality of mainstream entertainment – the sad spiral of inanity as good shows are slowly replaced by reality TV.

I’ve tried to stay above it, but a friend told me I should watch “Big Brother,” and all the current episodes were available online.

I clicked the “Play” button and everything went black. The video started playing and when I looked up again, I was hooked. I knew all kinds of things I had never wanted to know, my head filled with intimate details about people I wouldn’t ordinarily make eye contact with.

“Big Brother” is the most obvious example, but the major networks didn’t invent voyeurism; they just gave it a better script.

Voyeurism is a staple of Internet culture. The craze started about 10 years ago with the ascension of a camgirl named Jennifer Ringley. Ringley started a site called “JenniCam,” where she basically pointed a camera at herself and broadcast the results, uncensored, 24 hours a day.

JenniCam inspired hundreds of competitors, guys and girls willing to expose their lives for attention and cash. These days most cams are sponsored by sex sites, but for a short period in the ’90s, broadcasting your life on the Internet could almost pass for art.

“Big Brother” takes the same concept mainstream. Most people just watch the show each week, but diehard fans can pony up some dough and watch live feeds of the contestants over the Internet. For a mere $15 a month you can watch total strangers eat, sleep, argue and lounge by the pool.

Kind of like living in a dorm again, except you can turn them off. It’s worth the three-day trial, just so you can disabuse yourself of any romantic notions that Hollywood may have left in your head.

As much as we might dream of spying on our neighbors, the reality is mind-numbingly dull.

After watching three hours of the unedited “Big Brother” feed, a reviewer for the Web site Television Without Pity was begging for “Vicodin and a handgun.”

“Big Brother” is an avalanche of banality, carefully edited to look like drama.

I’m afraid the Internet has taken the edge off many of our favorite sins. Webcams prove that the quickest way to get over a vice is to drown in it.

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Written by Michael B. Duff

September 7, 2007 at 14:29

Posted in Columns, TV

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