Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's the reality in reality shows?

I'm not generally a fan of reality shows. I've never seen Survivor or The Bachelor or any of those programs. I do have a penchant for shows with junk, so I like Pawn Stars and American Pickers on History Channel, and I'm a big fan of Storage Wars on A&E. Just the original Storage Wars, not the imitators that have popped up.

The question is, how much "reality" is actually shown in reality shows? I think they're all staged to at least a degree. Anytime you introduce cameras you change the situation, because everyone is distracted from the business at hand, thinking of how they look on TV. American Pickers has been staged. The episode where Mike and Danielle went picking while Frank was supposed to be watching the store but instead headed for Sturgis, South Dakota and the big annual biker rally, was ridiculous. Those guys can't pull it off because they aren't that good as actors. I also doubted the episode with Jack White of the White Stripes and especially the episode with William Shatner. It makes for good entertainment, but not much reality.

Storage Wars has some engaging "stars," who seem like people you'd know. Dave Hester is an entrepreneur, a villain, kind of a shark.

Boooooooo, hisssss!

Darrell Sheets is your neighbor with the cars in his yard, tinkering with them on Sunday, drinking beer and having barbecues.

Darrell with his classic tank-top, and hairy shoulders.

Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz are the young couple trying to make a go of it with their second-hand store.

Jarrod's last name is Schulz. Any relation to Charles Schulz, Jarrod?

Jarrod is a hip guy, wearing the stubble-haircut, baggy shorts look (which will look awfully funny twenty years from now, trust me, Jarrod). I admit to having a thing for Brandi, a busty, attractive young woman. Even if she weren't on the show I'd stare at her if I saw her in the grocery store. I like her smart-aleck attitude, too.

I think Brandi looks great with her hair in bangs, but can ruin the effect with those huge sunglasses. As you can see by the official A&E portrait, Brandi has pretty brown eyes.

Barry Weiss is my special favorite, with his dry, wisecracking style, reminiscent, as one reviewer put it, of Jack Nicholson.

I guessed Barry Weiss was a porn producer. He has the look of a dirty old man. He rides up to the show in various fancy cars, which means he has money. (Some sources say about $7M.) I found out through a little research (OK, I googled his name) that he made his money in produce—not porn—but fruits and vegetables. Damn. I felt cheated. He and his brother ran a produce company until Barry retired a few years ago. Since he's the only one of the bidders not in it for the money he makes some interesting choices of what to bid for. I can relate to Barry because he's a collector, and so am I. But he's also a character, and has emerged as a genuine star. I can see Barry in movies, playing parts Dennis Farina usually plays.

A picture of Barry with his skeleton gloves, so familiar to viewers, and a non-familiar picture that surfaced of Barry from the 1980s. It answers a question of mine as to why Barry is friends with musicians like Stewart Copeland of the Police. He ran his produce business by day, and maybe he ran with the rock crowd at night.

Part of the appeal to me of American Pickers is the relationship between the business partners, Mike and Frank, but I really perk up when they show their store manager, Danielle. Danielle Cushman is a burlesque artist called Dannie Diesel. She's got tattoos (normally a turnoff for me), and frankly, she's hot in a zaftig kind of way, not a Hollywood kind of way. I must have a weakness for women who make sarcastic remarks.

My wife reminded me of the episode where Danielle and Mike went picking that Danielle used her eyes to get what she wanted from a guy.

I have one more thing to say about these shows, because they always hinge on how much things cost, and what they're worth. Having been in the selling and buying end of the collector market I can tell you one absolute law of collectibles. THEY ARE WORTH WHAT SOMEONE IS WILLING TO PAY FOR THEM. Not a penny more or less. The shows have inflated how people think, that even the most common items from the past have some value, which they don't. I don't like the way they say some item they paid $50 for is "worth" $5,000. I want to see them sell it to someone for $5,000, or what they can get for it. Then those pronouncements of worth will have some validity.

Now that's the reality in these reality shows.



DEMiller said...

Very good. I agree with all your comments. As for staging, there is more than meets the eye. People have to have mics attached and be facing the camera, etc. What about all those other people who are there to bid on the lockers? You may have missed episode of Pawn Stars when Chumbly is told to get Bob Dylan's autograph on an LP. Chumbly goes to where Dylan is performing and finds him walking down the street and gets his autograph!

Postino said...

I caught the Pawn Stars where Dylan just happened to be walking down the street. Can you imagine Bob Dylan just wandering alone in Las Vegas? I wonder how much time it took the Pawn Stars producer to get Bob Dylan's agent to agree to such a stunt.

(Dylan would have had to have liked it, because I'm sure he never does anything he doesn't want to do, and he doesn't need the publicity.)

Apparently we don't see the other people win the lockers on Storage Wars, or the producers might tell the crowd to stand down. Maybe they're props, or a lot of them are there hoping they'll get seen on TV.

It's been denied that the producers "salt" the lockers to put in good stuff, but how much do they pay their stars? I talked to my brother-in-law who read that Dave Hester might not be back next season because he's asking for too much money.

I also read that the stores these folks run do really good business because of the show, as does the Harrison's pawn shop in Pawn Stars, which is open 24 hours a day.