It all started in 2000.
I was a 15-year-old sophomore in high school and had just gotten called into the Department Head’s office and sent into a room to sing for a couple of television producers who were scouting for a new pilot. Sure, I thought. Why not?
One thing led to another and, long story short, I’d been chosen. I was going to be a featured cast member for the pilot of a new show called “The Real Fame School,” on what was then the Fox Family Channel. We shot for weeks, and after the pilot wasn’t picked up, it got tabled and never revisited. They called it a “documentary,” but 20 years later, I know the truth – it was going to be a reality show.
Alas, it had begun.
My name is Laura, and I watch trashy reality TV. My mother refers to this as the “family secret.” My dad doesn’t get it. My husband makes fun of it, laughs, and rolls his eyes. My children say that my favorite show is RuPaul’s Drag Race…and they aren’t wrong. To be fair, they also say The Golden Girls and Family Feud, so I guess that’s a plus, right? And yes, I do watch some better ones like Locked Up Abroad, Snapped, and every other true crime show on ID.
Some of them are ridiculous competition shows – Survivor, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, and the like. Others are a little better, like Kate Plus 8 or Botched. But then we get into the REAL trash – 90 Day Fiance, Jersey Shore, and Dance Moms…to name a few. I’m not at liberty to discuss whether I’ve seen every episode of Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, and all corresponding shows (I have). What can I say? The mid-2000s were the golden age of reality TV!
My experience as a fledgling cast member gave me some serious insight into Reality TV production.
Before I was selected, the casting department followed me around a lot (performing, riding the train, at my house, etc.), and asked a lot of questions. I remember one night I was singing with my dad at a restaurant, and they attended. Under the guise of getting to know me better, they hopped into my mom’s car with us to take me to a friend’s Sweet 16 – coincidentally, this birthday boy ended up being a contestant on Season 9 of Rupaul’s Drag Race!
I found them asking a lot of leading questions that made it clear they were on the hunt for some drama. Ever the brazen teenaged New Yorker, I couldn’t help myself. “Okay, so, to be honest? My life has been easy. My parents have been married for 25 years, and they have supported my brother and me 150% in everything we’ve ever wanted to do. I never saw Mom come home drunk from the bar. I never saw Dad come home and hit Mom. So, if you’re looking for a sad story I just don’t think I have one for you.” I’ve had a lot of amazing moments in my life since then that have made my mom proud, but if you ask her, that’s probably towards the top of her list (and mine). They cast me less than a week later.
I have never forgotten how production “leads the witness” and casts specific types, so I take all these shows with a grain of salt.
So why, with my background and life, do I watch such trash?
Because it’s EASY. It’s MINDLESS. I don’t have to think about why Pilot Pete doesn’t realize that he and Madison are completely incompatible. Or that it doesn’t take Einstein to realize that Jessica is 34, and Mark is 24, and that when he’s 50, she’ll be 60. I’m not surprised when cast members are put into situations that make them crumble, because they revealed their weaknesses in pre-production. Sometimes I feel bad for them because we’re all human. But then I remember that reality TV is a decades-old game, and they knew what they were signing up for. There are plenty of cast members who know how to play the game and have parlayed that into a good reputation and successful career as an influencer. Honestly, I’m a bit jealous!
I am so fortunate in an infinite number of ways. But even taking away the insanity of what’s going on in the world, on a daily basis, my life is crazy enough. I work full time in outside sales and spend my days on the road. My husband is a hospital director. We have twin 6-year-olds. My parents are still in the house I grew up in, in Elmhurst, New York, and his parents are in his childhood home in Monterey, Louisiana. We don’t have a lot of family close by, so it’s all on us. So yes, after I come home from work, cook dinner, do homework and baths and stories and downtime and everything else all families do, I like to zone out on some trash TV.
I guess the moral of the story is no, the TV I watch isn’t going to make me smarter, but it’s fine. Everyone has their way to unwind and no one’s is better than anyone else’s. It’s not a moral competition or a sign of intelligence. So if you’re tired and looking to decompress – or you just want to gossip about the cast members on Unexpected – come on over. I’ve got a glass of whatever you fancy, and plenty of trash on my DVR!