Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Best Reality TV Show Ever

Tonight RW and I were watching the DVD of the 2nd season of 6 Feet Under, Greatest TV Series in the World, gaping as Our Hero, David Fisher, gave what-for to the woman who was suing the funeral home. I mean, this stream of incredibly eloquent and emotionally incisive invective just came pouring out of him. Then he did it again a few minutes later when his boyfriend Keith was going to hand over custody of Keith's 9-year-old niece, who they'd been taking care of after Keith's sister was arrested, to Keith's potentially abusive dad. [Okay, so the show is really a glorified soap. We love it anyway.] David spoke truth to power in such a way that we were awed and amazed. Maybe he's the one I wanted to be channeling at that zoo concert last week.

Then we remembered: oh yeah, he's fictional! He has writers! It takes them a week or so to come up with an hour's worth of wise and witty and powerfully truthful zingers for David and his fucked-up family! "I wish Alan Ball* would write my life for me," said RW. Or maybe I said it; I'm not sure. I was certainly thinking it.

That's when the lightning bolt hit. Alan Ball should write our lives for us! Or somebody else's, for them. Let's face it: we all wish we could talk like the people on those smart TV shows. It's at least as much a fantasy as whatever else they're dangling in front of people on all those reality TV shows I don't watch but hear about in the staff room. [Okay, I did watch one episode of Colonial House. And the half-hour network version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy they showed as a teaser.] So give the people what they want!

Here's how it would work: The producers would pick a real person, or family, or group of friends, or workplace, or, I don't know, a real bar where everybody knows each other's names, and they'd spend a few days interviewing everyone about their situations, their issues, their problems, hopes, dreams, whatever. Then they'd pick one big major story line that seemed to be the focus of interest. [Or maybe they'd hire a therapist to do this part, you know, draw everybody out and identify the Big Issue. We can work out the details later. Either way, they definitely film the interviews.]

Then, the writers would move in. One or more writers from a smart TV show with really good dialogue would spend a week or so in the house [or workplace, or bar, etc.] taking copious notes. Say, Aaron Sorkin, Alan Ball, David Chase, Michael Patrick King, and/or some of the women who you don't get to hear about [like Jill Soloway!] but who I'm sure they have toiling in their back offices.

Then-- this is my favorite part-- the writers go back to their offices and write a TV show just like these people's real life, but with much better dialogue. And, for a bonus, they provide a resolution to the Big Issue identified during the first section. Then they produce the TV show, only with actors who are thinner and have a costume designer and great haircuts.

Finally, they show the whole thing: first 10-15 minutes of interviews with the Real People, and maybe a summary from the hired shrink. Then 30-45 minutes of the written show with the actors, wherein the big problem is solved and everyone gets lots of witty dialogue to lob at each other. Then a follow-up with the real people, taped a few months later, where they tell how whatever problem it was really worked out, and maybe how the experience of their Dialogue Makeover helped them with it.

RW suggests an alternate scenario, in which people get to play themselves in the scripted version of their life. But not everyone can act. She said they could be on book, and it would work as therapy rather than reality TV.

Either way, I want it. I want it so bad. I want us to be the first episode. I want Jenny Bicks of Sex and the City to decide whether and when we should move to Vancouver, and to write me a really snappy yet moving monologue about how lame Seattle is and how much I miss New York even though I know RW will never move there in a million years. She can write one for RW on anything she wants, too, even my many personal failings, I don't care that they'd be exposed on TV in front of millions of people, I mean lots of people have exposed all kinds of dumb things about themselves on TV but at least this would be well-written! And maybe I'd be played by Joan Cusack or someone. Oh, please, pick us first! Someone see this idea and produce it and pick us first!

Or pick someone else, but at least do it. If someone would produce this show, I would even pay for cable for the first time in my life to see it.

*Actually, RW points out that Jill Soloway wrote that episode. So maybe she should be writing our lives for us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's reality TV and not therapy, I want Susan Sarandon to play me. But I still think therapists could rake in the big bucks with this as the New Therapy for the 21st Century.
- RW

11:24 PM  

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