This current crop of ratchet reality shows will eventually go the way of Jerry Springer. Remember when it was a big deal whenever there was a fight on the show and then eventually there was a fight on every single show? It got boring, predictable and though The Jerry Springer Show is still on (Yes, it is!), it has basically morphed into a comedic wrestling show. It’s “reality” television with a huge wink. It has a faithful audience, but the hurled fists and insults are expected and no longer newsworthy.
Now we have Basketball Wives quickly spiraling into Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling territory, except with better weaves and without the benefit of a cushioned mat for the take-downs. Evelyn Lozada, the demure fiancé of Chad Ochocinco, has thrown drinking glasses, wine bottles and random home accessories at various cast members. She also recently jumped on a table barefoot to pounce on her prey.
Her Vince McMahon approved-behavior has earned her a petition asking for her to stop being “about that life” and move on to something not involving a television.
A petition like that will never work, though. It will do nothing but build up even more anticipation for the sure-to-be-ridiculous reunion show, and Lozada’s spinoff with Ochocinco. Besides, if Evelyn does leave the show, they’ll just replace her with someone just as volatile, but willing to take a smaller paycheck.
Outside of the soon-to-be-like-clockwork violence, Basketball Wives is essentially a prolonged game of telephone. “I heard that you said…” “Somebody told me you tweeted…” Those mini sub-plots get stretched out over two or three episodes and then it’s all rehashed on the reunion show where the juvenile behavior is even more pronounced due to the contrast with the glam hair, make-up and wardrobe.
Minus the violence, the same can be said for the Real Housewives of Atlanta. The reunion for season four was three hours long — about two and a half hours of which was filled with unintelligible squawking about black babies and escorts or something like that. There seems to be a general consensus that it’s just plain sad to see these grown women hash out high-school-like drama in elementary-school-like ways, yet we keep tuning in every week. As long as the ratings and ad dollars are there, the shows will remain. But I predict these shows’ ratings will naturally die off as people get bored with the formula, unless they can consistently rope in relevant celebrities.
Is it possible to have a reality show with a black cast that is entertaining and not embarrassing? Seems like it. MTV had the adorable and empowering story of Chelsea Settles. VH1 has the family friendly La La’s Full Court Life and of course the fly June Ambrose in her new show Styled by June. Shucks, even T.I.’s show was getting Huxtable comparisons. The jury is still out on TV One’s new show Love Addiction, it’s basically the format of A & E’s Intervention, but with toxic relationships instead of drugs.
Robyn Greene Arrington, senior director of programming and production, assured theGrio in an exclusive interview that the show is not about exploitative drama. (Did you see DMX on Couple’s Therapy? Woo sah!) “The goal of Love Addiction is to offer a unique television viewing experience that highlights the sensitive and prevalent issue of dysfunctional relationships in the black community, while providing positive, insightful options under the guidance of relationship experts, as well as the love and concern of family and friends,” said Greene Arrington.
Kudos to Love Addiction if it manages to do all of that and capture the interest of today’s fickle television viewing audience. For her part, Shaunie O’Neal, the mastermind behind the Basketball Wives franchise, told Vibe that she “hopes the fans feel they see a balance and know we have always been real with our stories, even though it may not always be a positive portrayal of adult women, but real women nonetheless.”
Balance? No. Maybe 5-10 percent non-cringe-worthy viewing per episode. And that “real women” bit is suspect too. I bet those women would not say or do half of what they are saying or doing sans cameras. They certainly wouldn’t go out to dinner together so often. Seriously, do you know a group of adult women who eat and drink together so dang much?
Celebrities like Star Jones and Jaleel White have recently come out against these types of shows. Do you think we’ve reached a turning point on ratchet reality television or do we have many more years left of this phenomenon?
Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope