New Reality

I like Ghost Hunters.  Really.  For those of you who may not know, it’s a campy little show on SciFi that has a couple of plumbers from RotoRooter fronting an organization called ‘TAPS” … doing investigations of haunted places.  Taps is an acronym for “The Atlantic Paranormal Society”.

In the show, they travel around the country trying to find ghosts … and sometimes they find things that at least appear to be ghosts.  Using (to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie) all kinds of TAPS equipment at the scene of the haunting.  There are Electro Magnetic Field or EMF Detectors.  Thermal imaging cameras, recorders to record disembodied voices … and they get stuff.  It’s pretty amazing.

St Aug Light TAPS has investigated the lighthouse in St. Augustine, and showed on camera funky shadows and such in the lighthouse tower.  They do try to debunk things, and won’t call something paranormal if it’s clearly a high EMF field, lights from cars, a squirrel on the roof … so that’s interesting.

But when you see the moving shadows, the flashlights turning on and off by themselves … it at least makes you wonder.

I call it a guilty pleasure, because its television to be watched strictly for mind candy.

There are several of those on my regular watch list.  Shows like Wreckreation  Nation, Dirty Jobs, or Mythbusters.

Along with shows like Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, and the raft of logging shows that seem to be on this spring, and they represent the next generation in reality shows.  And they’re more real than what had traditionally been called “Reality”.

With Dirty Jobs, Wreckreation Nation, and the like, the producers rely on the audience for suggestions for the shows. Mythbusters, too makes use of the web to get ideas for myths to test.  Ghost Hunters does not actively solicit for haunted sites, but I’m sure you could write to them and say “my house is haunted”.   In fact, they’ve investigated houses who’s owners claim are haunted.  Sometimes they find stuff, sometimes not.  But it seems that the shows would be fairly inexpensive to produce.  All of the shows but Mythbusters require travel, and the Mythbusters boys sometimes manage to get to exotic locales.

The other shows, Axe Men, Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers … all feature real people in real jobs who are willing to be videotaped doing them.  There is usually lots of bleeping.

I really prefer these to the other ‘Reality Shows” … the “Survivor” or “Big Brother” or “Top Chef” or even “Next Food Network Star”.  I’m not big on the phony challenges and elimination “game show” aspects of those shows.  I understand them, but they’re not real … so I’m not sure why they call them “Reality”.  “Hells Kitchen” takes the genre to a ridiculous level.

No, for me, I like reality shows that show something real.  “Ghost Hunters” may be a bit of a stretch, but at least they’re real people who truly believe in that they’re doing.  “Mythbusters” is something similar, but they mostly like to blow stuff up if there’s any opportunity to do so.  Shows like “Deadliest Catch”, or the tamer “Treasure Quest” try to give you a glimpse of real life that you might not ever see otherwise.

I mentioned the raft of logging shows on this spring.  Axe Men, Heliloggers (which involves chain saws and helicopters … way cool) and one other who’s title escapes me since I’ve watched it only once.  I don’t know why the fascination with cutting down trees, but it seems to be there.  With all of these, there’s lots of bleeping.  That’s kind of how real life is.

But you, or I do at least, also start to really relate to the characters.  On “Deadliest Catch”, one of the boat captains had serious health problems, and I really felt for him.  You root for these guys to do well at their jobs.  Of course, there’s always SOME element of competition.  Who can catch the most crabs or move the most stuff on the ice or harvest the most logs.  But the thrust of the show is about people doing a usually-very-dangerous job for sometimes a lot of money.  It’s really as American as it gets.

So, this seems to be televisions’ new reality.  Shows that are relatively inexpensive to produce, that have some drama or humor or competition, that people will watch.  But I’ve got to tell you, when I look at a Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) or a Dave Mordal (Wreckreation Nation) or a Jamie Heineman (Mythbusters) I have to wonder …

“How can I get a gig like that …?”



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