The Year I Surrendered to Trash TV
I won’t remember 2020 as the year of face masks, quarantine and hand sanitising. Oh no! 2020 will be remembered as The Year I Spent Glued to My Sofa, having succumbed to the temptation of the small screen’s most enticing content: Reality TV.
The year is 2019 B.C. (Before COVID) and I’m pretty confident in my taste in television. I reckon myself an aficionado of the hard stuff; a smattering of documentaries, a thriller here or there, a drama that pulls on your heart strings thrown in for good measure. Normally I’m in it for the nitty gritty: the meaty dialogue, the serious subjects, poignant social commentary and pressing global issues.
As someone well-versed in Chatting Shit myself, I failed to understand why friends would spend their spare time religiously tuning in to watch other people — some of whom look and sound just like us — chat shit on TV.
Love Island, for example, was one I could never understand, baffled by friends who were engrossed in The Latest Villa Banter. The way I saw it: I would much rather be out and about catching up with my own friends, than catching up with the lives of random strangers. I saw these shows as uninformative and tedious; designed for mindless viewing.
The Big Panny-D.
And mindless was just what the doctor ordered.
stupid and meaning nothing; not needing much mental effort.
It all started with Selling Sunset.
So it’s now August 2020 and pretty warm outside. I’m inside though, as is the new norm, given the fact we’re up to our eyeballs in viral pandemonium.
Here I am, in the midst of another run of the mill, Zoom-induced hangover, sprawled out on the sofa in the house I share with two others, aggressively evaporating Aperol Spritz from every pore. I’m functioning at approximately 10% brain capacity as I scroll through Netflix — another day, another oh so difficult decision — debating which category of TV requires the least amount of brain power. And there they are, bronzed and beautiful; the cast of Selling Sunset beaming (as best they can, given the botox) back at me.
I devoured the entire first season in one weekend.
Love is Blind, The Real Housewives, Nailed It!, Instant Hotel, Queer Eye, Love on the Spectrum, 90 Day Fiancé, The Great Pottery Throw Down, Glow Up, Tiny House Nation, Best Leftovers Ever! Married at First Sight, The Circle USA , Too Hot To Handle, The Circle…
The more niche the concept, the better. Shoot it up and inject it directly into my frontal lobe please Netflix.
Mind Numbing Escapism is how I would describe my new viewing requirements; 99% concentrated nonsense. During a year of total disconnect and isolation — where the only forms of communication were virtually simulated — watching trash TV allowed all of us to mentally check-out from the real world and enter a shiny alternate world vaguely representative of our former reality. Trapping me in my house made me realise the true healing powers of reality TV.
Throughout 2020 we have been bombarded by negative news stories and horrifying statistics, so it’s no surprise unscripted reality TV shows and docuseries like Too Hot to Handle (51 million streams) and Floor is Lava (37 million) have topped the lists of Netflix Most Watched Shows.
The Reality TV category has become a collective feeding ground for the mentally-fatigued: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime continue to plate up delectably dead-eyed characters we can really sink our teeth into; and oh, how we feast.
This week, as lockdown measures continue to ease in countries including the UK, Netflix has reported a sudden drop in streaming figures. I am pleased to report my love affair with reality TV hasn’t convinced me to ditch my friends in the real world, but I must admit, it is comforting to know there is a boundless conveyor belt of trash TV available to tap into whenever I need to. I have been soothed by the dulcet tones of many shiny Californians over the last 365+ days and for that I am eternally grateful.