Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Survivor, and The Bachelor--I'll admit, for the entire month of May I spent entirely too much time watching the current crop of reality competitions on TV, going so far as to negotiate with friends--some of whom may be reading this now, so I apologize--to limit social activities so they wouldn't interfere with these nightly viewing fixes. I'm addicted and plan to check into rehab--"Oh, Hi Lindsay and Britt!"--soon. But in the meantime, here's why I think we love these shows so much. On Idol we can't wait to see what bizarre "talent" will come out for the auditions and then as the competition heats up we're looking for genuine star power--and if we can mess with Simon Cowell at the same time, that's all right too. Dancing just makes us happy and wistful that we can't look that gorgeous and move as passionately on the dance floor. Plus, it doesn't take long to see which stars have the discipline and drive to deliver each week, taking the judges' critiques to heart and practicing that much harder for the next dance. Amazing Race is all about teamwork while globe trotting to the most obscure places in the world and completing challenges that test teams' abilities to conquer language, cultural, and physical barriers to make it to each checkpoint first. Survivor demands strategizing and alliance building--and sometimes betrayal--in order to be the one who ultimately lands on top with the million. And finally there's The Bachelor, searching for love and commitment from out of a bevy of beauties--I'm still questioning why I succumbed to this particular "reality." It's wrong on so many levels and borderline weird, but by the season finale I was warning Bachelor Andy to forget about his "chemistry" with cry baby Bevin and aggressively woo the more substantial Tessa--which he did according to the engagement news in the entertainment rags.
Now for the lessons learned--and my justification for a month glued to the TV. Our current crop of political wanna-bes--especially the '08 presidential candidates--could learn a lot from watching a little reality TV. In May, my other drug of choice was studying these contenders--and the Campfire Wolves Gore and Thompson--in three-hour debates, in-depth interviews, dueling announcements on various issues, stumping and cautiously circling each other. Frankly it's been a huge bore. Will the real winner please stand up, or at least be willing to separate from the herd? Campaign managers, here's what I recommend: in the next few months as you fly from Iowa to New Hampshire to California to South Carolina, instead of cramming your guy/gal's head with talking points, have them watch re-runs of the reality competitions that so many Americans find irresistible. Oh, and don't forget to make them take notes. There are lessons a plenty for candidates interested in running a campaign that voters would get excited about. Republican candidates--aka, The Middle-aged Boring White Guys 10--watch Big Butt Joey Fatone to learn how to entertain a crowd--you're killing us!! Hillary, you need to catch up with Jordin Sparks on the American Idol tour and get her to help with your campaign theme song--it is going to be "My Boyfriend's Back", right? Both sides, learn how to think and act strategically as Yauman did on Survivor, instead of going around with your fingers in the air constantly testing the PR winds. All of you, learn from the Amazing Race teams that the winners in every place on the globe were the ones who remembered that they are Americans and that winning depended upon their willingness to work respectfully and cooperatively with diverse peoples. And finally, don't be Dreamz on Survivor, going back on your word when the stakes get too high. If the American people give you the Big Prize Truck--the U.S. Presidency-based on what you promised during the campaign, don't betray our trust.
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.