Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Reality TV Bites! My Pitch To The Major Networks

Shows based on reality.  Oh, the humanity!
“You’re gonna lose your mind watchin’ TV” Oh, and “Fear Factor” I watched maybe a half hour after that, felt like I needed a long shower
Network execs with naked ambitions, “Next week on FOX, watch lions eat Christians”.  Leech-covered grub-eatin’ fools on “Survivor”
I love shows with or without a plot I’ll stare ’til my legs are numb, my eyes bloodshot
Because I only have got One brain to rot
I’m gonna spend my life watching television a lot

These lyrics are from Wierd Al Yankovic’s song parody “Couch Potato”.  I have intentionally only copied the references to reality television.  You can read the complete lyrics on any web page.  Late last year I attended a cancer survivor event.  One of the speakers was a head honcho at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  When he finally began speaking he mentioned the uncomfortable feeling he got referring to former cancer patients as “survivors”.  Survivor is often a term we associate with war, accidents, natural disasters.  I am paraphrasing, but that is the gist of what he said.  I believe he was attributing it to the duration of the event and the effects following it.  I would go one step further as far as using the word survivor, not just for cancer patients, but those who have survived war, disasters, and other tragic events.  I believe the word “survivor” has been cheapened by “reality TV”.

I will admit that I do watch an occasional reality show, but it is very rare.  The whole concept of someone volunteering to be put in precarious positions, be paid for it, and referring to the victor as a survivor is insulting and demeaning to those who have had no choice, who are not given a financial opportunity to recover (or in the TV world, profit from their effort or gain their fifteen minutes of fame).

Seriously, take a look around your waiting room.  In walks your doctor with a TV producer, and about a dozen people whom you do not recognize.  Since you do not know any of the visitors it is up to the doctor to introduce to you, what is about to happen.

“I have been approached by this major network about a new reality show about getting through a battle with cancer.  These people have all volunteered to be given the same cancer, and the same treatments.  There will be challenges where they will be given the opportunity for extra treatments, or denied treatments.  Competitions will determine what order people would receive their treatments.  Losing challenges would also carry consequences.  Every week, one contestant will be sent home by vote from the real patients who are not here for the TV show, where they will then have to find their own treatment plan.  The last one standing, or surviving, will be the winner of a million dollars.  As participants as observers, we will make sure that you get a year’s supply of TV guides to make sure you know just when the show is airing.  Sound good?”

Of course this scenario is prerposterous, and offensive.  But many times, when I watch shows like Survivor, Big Brother, Fear Factor, and now all these sub-class shows like Redneck Vacations and a show mocking an overweight child because her parents are too stupid to realize the damage they are causing, I do not want to be held in the same descriptive sense of the word survivor.  I have been through too much for my journey to be so understated just because it did not appear on some remote island.  My psychological battles are far worse than a group of spoiled egotistical jerks who believe the only way to get by is by being deceiptful, and disloyal.

We cancer patients are kind of funny with the labels that healthy people, and sometimes other cancer patients like to place on us.  Survivor.  Warrior.  And I am not going to rip on people who watch the reality shows.  But just once, I would like to see a major network produce a series and stick with it, about true survivors, not volunteers, we were forced into our situations.  We were not made into millionaires because of it, but there are literally millions of us, over twelve million.  Many of us have additional issues, and most do not know why.  Stand Up 2 Cancer is doing great by drawing attention to supporting research to find new cures and support, but we need something to show that people do live long lives in spite of their greatest challenge in life.  A walk around a track at your local Relay For Life is lined with luminairies with the names of people who have faced cancer and beaten it.  I would like to see a Nationally televised Relay For Life with at least half of the program dedicated to survivors and perhaps expanding the Stand Up 2 Cancer to include the various issues that survivors face after treatments from psychological to medical.  Just once, I would like to see a real reality show that is not based on backstabbing, lying, and degrading.  I would like to see true success and show people how success is really celebrated and appreciated.

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