Painful Truth: Making is better than winning

Since a reality show host decided to run for president down south, I’ve had the format on my mind more than usual.

What makes a show a reality show, anyway?

There seem to be two basic kinds (although they overlap and have fuzzy edges).

The first is a kind of staged quasi-documentary. Before we knew what to call reality television, we had things like Britain’s Living In The Past and MTV’s The Real World.

Survivor, which started in 2000 and has now racked up 33 seasons, introduced the reality-competition format to a wide audience. It quickly set a template for scheming, alliances, and for booting one person a week until the ultimate winner was chosen.

I started watching Survivor again this year for the first time in a decade, and I was startled to see how little it has changed. About the only difference from the first couple of seasons seems to be that people now try to form alliances in the first couple of nano-seconds instead of waiting, you know, an hour or two.

It was kind of underwhelming how familiar it all felt.

But there are some shows that use that template while sharply diverging from it.

My favourite reality shows may eliminate people, but they aren’t about backstabbing or scheming. No one ever says “thrown under the bus,” either.

Face Off is a pretty standard contest show in which special effects makeup artists compete to be the best. From about 16 or so, they’re whittle down to the final three in weekly challenges. Make a cyberpunk troll! Create a whimsical pirate! Turn your model into a stick insect!

If it was a normal reality competition show, you’d expect lots of trash talk, maybe even some attempts at sabotage.

Instead, you frequently see contestants helping each other out, asking advice, sharing techniques.

The thrill of watching a show in which people actually make something is at least partly because it’s fun to watch people create something real.

There are now scads of shows like this – food and fashion, hot rods and cakes. Teams or individuals try their hardest, they get judged, and people get the boot… but it feels different from Survivor or The Apprentice or even a dating show.

Even if a contestant has to get kicked out of a task-based contest show, you often see them talk about how much they learned. It’s a brutal boot camp, but it’s a lot more fun to watch people try to make something other than alliances.



Just Posted

Cyclist injured in Langley hit-and-run

Rider was taken to hospital

Phasing plans for Brookswood defeated

Council voted against staggering neighbourhood planning in Brookswood-Fernridge.

Vigil to eliminate violence on women

Annual vigil observes International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

Langley author pens tribute to the men and women of Canada’s military for Remembrance Day

‘A soldier, a sailor and an airman … stood before the Pearly Gates’

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Canucks’ 50/50 jackpot expected to surpass $1 million

The guaranteed prize for one lucky winner will be $500,000 minimum when Vancouver hosts LA Nov 27

Most Read