Things Are Getting Real

I love reality shows. I’ve loved them ever since I was five years old and I was on a children’s reality show called Romper Room. It was one of the most popular shows on Ontario television, and it consisted of a different group of children each week just playing and doing activities under the supervision of a kindly, teacher-type lady. At the end of each show, Miss____ (there were several women who played the role—mine was Miss Grace) would hold up a magic mirror, and say, “I can see Johnny, and Sarah, and Ian, and….” Kids across the province would sit fixated, desperately hoping to hear their name. I don’t know why my parents decided to put me on the show, but two incidents cemented for me the fact that reality shows have only a tenuous relationship with reality. First, I kept jumping up and down, prompting the director to tell me to stop. “You’re TOO excited,” he said. But I was excited. A SUPER f*cking excited 5-year-old, and I had to stifle my real enthusiasm because it was TV. Second, they taped all five episodes for the week on one Saturday, and I kept getting into sh*t for contradicting Miss Grace when she would start the next segment with “What day is it today, boys and girls?” Everyone was supposed to say ‘Tuesday’ or whatever, but I yelled “Saturday!!” every time. Once again, the director had to talk to me about how we were only “pretending” and to just play along. Yep, that’s me—a non-conformist pain-in-the-ass from an early age.

Still, reality shows are the best, especially building shows. And I’m very lucky because:

a) There’s a renovation going on across the street from us, turning a church into a family home. And while I can see updates on Facebook, I literally have a bird’s eye view of the deconstruction AND reconstruction process from my window. Whenever I’m bored, I can just look out and it feels like I’m watching TV. And here’s where it gets really meta—the renovation is actually being filmed by a network in the States and it will be on TV when it’s done. How cool is that? Also, if you’ve read my new short story collection, At The End Of It All, there’s a story called Twist of Faith which is loosely based on the opening of the cornerstone last year at that very church.

b) I work at an antique market which could very easily be the subject of a reality show, a cross between Hoarders and Storage Wars. For example, the other day, a new vendor showed up. His name is Bob and he’s like 90 and he makes birdhouses. Bob’s Birdhouses. The intention was for him to display his birdhouses on a shelf above the till but everyone forgot to brace the shelf. So he arrived, and one of my co-workers had to immediately start cutting wood for braces because Bob was PISSED. And then my co-worker had to go find a drill. He found four of them in the basement. None of them worked. But we didn’t throw them away because if we did, the owner would dig them out of the garbage and make us put them back. Then we all—me, Bob, and Bob’s wife, watched my co-worker screw the braces into the shelf, which made him very self-conscious and irritated, especially when Bob kept inspecting the braces, and I kept saying, “You should be using a Robertson bit, not a Philips.” I know this because I WATCH REALITY SHOWS, DAN. In fact, I watch so many reality shows that I should pitch one of my own. Thus, I present to you several ideas for fantastic reality shows, starting with…

1) Cubicle Wars

Host: Hello once again, and welcome to Cubicle Wars, where each week, two co-workers compete to see who can create a stunning office space with little more than a $50 gift card to the Dollar Store and their own imaginations! Let’s meet our challengers! This is Jill, a temp worker with a fondness for frogs, as you can see by the many, many statues and stuffies that she has on her desk. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jill!

Jill: Frogs are amphibians and can speak 7 different languages.
Host: Only one of those things is even correct! Welcome, Jill! And now here’s our other contestant, Josh. Josh is an engineer, so no one knows what he actually does!
Josh: That’s not true. I—I…
Host: Exactly! Now here are your $50 gift cards. See you next week, you crazy kids!

One week later…

Host: Let’s see what Jill and Josh have accomplished. Our live studio audience will then announce the winner!
Audience (which consists of a panhandler that the host found in the lobby): Does anyone have spare change for coffee?
Host: After the show, Stinky Pete! First up is Jill!
Jill: I used my $50 to buy aromatherapy candles and placed them strategically around my cubicle.
Host: That’s it? How many candles did you buy?
Jill: 50, obviously. It was the Dollar Store.
Manager (passing by): You can’t light those, Jill. I told you, it’s a fire hazard.
Jill: FINE, STEVE! But don’t come to me when the power goes out, you fascist!
Host: All right—let’s see what Josh has done. Ooh, a tiki bar theme! Very nice! I particularly like the inflatable palm tree.
Josh: Thanks. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out, although I’ve been getting a lot of side-eye because of the torches. THEY’RE CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE, STEVE! I’M NOT A NAZI!
Host: And now it’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for. Audience, who is our winner?!
Stinky Pete: Is there any whiskey in the tiki bar? NO? Then I pick the candle lady.
Host: Congratulations, Jill. Your prize is that you get to keep all the candles!
Jill: I just want my frogs back. Marcel was teaching me French.
Host: See you next time on Cubicle Wars!

I really think this show has potential. And while I was fleshing it all out, here are some other show ideas I came up with:

2) Souped Up! (a cheaper version of Top Gear)

In this show, two guys take cheap cars and try to make them look cool. With VERY limited resources.

Host: Tell us about today’s project, boys.
Gary: It’s a 1988 Ford Tempo, base model, beige, with rust accents.
Mitch: We got it for fifty bucks at a yard sale. The upholstery smells like cheese.
Host: And what are your plans for this car?
Gary: No spoilers!
Host: Oh, sorry I asked.
Gary: No, dude—we’re not putting a spoiler on it. Spoilers are pretentious.
Mitch: You’re goddamned right they’re pretentious!

The next day…

Host: Wow! What a transformation. Tell us what you did!
Mitch: We found bigger wheels at the dump and put them on the back. Now it’s slanty!
Gary: We used duct tape to make racing stripes. I probably should have used a ruler.
Host: Um…did you put a tow hitch on the back of this car JUST so you could hang a fake scrotum ornament off it?
Mitch: You’re goddamned right we did! We made it ourselves out of two oranges and one of Gary’s granny’s old kneehighs.
Both (highfiving): Our car has balls, b*tch!
Host: All right then. Join us next week when Gary and Mitch transform a Pinto into a fancy lawn tractor!
Both: Unsafe at any speed!

3) 19 and Counting: Feline Edition

Voice-Over Intro: “Meet Meredith, a ‘cat lover’, who roams the streets of her town at night, looking for more cats. She has a LOT—maybe more than 19 but who’s counting? None of them are actually hers; she stole them all from her neighbours. Her house reeks of urine, but she insists she’s ‘not crazy’. You be the judge!”

4) Cooking With Wieners

This show is simple. It’s just hot dogs. Every week. Audience of at least one (Ken) guaranteed.

5) Flip That Port-a-Potty!

While you might be thinking that this is a decorating show where people take old portable toilets and pretty them up, you’re wrong. This show is about Bobby “Flip” Johnson, a real douchecanoe who waits until people go into port-a-potties, then he sneaks up and tips them over. He’s killed in episode 3, and the remainder of the season becomes a detective show, where a slightly Asperger’s detective and his madcap female sidekick investigate Bobby’s murder. Kind of like Jackass meets Elementary. Will we ever find out who killed Bobby? No spoilers!

41 thoughts on “Things Are Getting Real

  1. My problem with reality shows is that they are basically “reality” but with advertisements. But, that is exactly what real reality is, so, what’s the point?
    I’m confused. I’m impressed that you were on Romper Room. I think I may have watched that show, but the U.S. version, where there was always a segment where Miss Annie showed the kids how to check if a gun was loaded before waving it around.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. There used to be a television show here in the United States called Double Dare. I begged my parents to let me be on the show, but they were steadfast in saying no. Everyone I knew wanted to be on the show.

    My friends had all the toys that were created and marketed by the show, and I remember going to my friends house to play with balloons filled with shaving cream, water balloons, and slime.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The problem with reality shows is there is no limit. Or bottom, as is the case with flipping porta-potties which I’m pretty sure was the basis for a reality show, albeit one where no one died. You should get paid for all these pitches is what I’m saying because someone is going to take all these and at least make a pilot.
    Also your coworker bracing a shelf while everyone watched reminded me of an episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Barney’s cousin visits and he wrecks everything he touches. Then they realize he’s a genius who can do anything as long as no one’s watching him. I felt seen which is why I was uncomfortable and completely inept.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I remember Romper Room but I think I was a little old to be a regular. But we had Ding Dong School with Miss Frances that I do remember. I made my parents buy me the set of ‘school bells’ so that I could drive them crazy trying to play the melodies that no 4 year old could possible imitate. Still, it’s a fond memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t really watch reality shows because they’ve all gotten so over dramatized. The very first reality show I loved was Deadliest Catch, be cause it was genuine and showed the real part of catching crab (not crabs totes different show, lol.). But after season 4 it seemed like a soap opera. Although I still love tuning in every so often to see how Captain Sig Hanson is doing, he was my fav captain and his boat the Northwestern. But you have some great pitch ideas for reality shows, Cubical Was is a great concept…lol.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I remember Romper Room. Well, I remember the name of the show and that I probably watched it. Or maybe not. We weren’t allowed to watch a lot of TV when we were kids. We had to *gasp* go play outside! Ha! (And, I don’t have 19 cats. Just sayin’. Ha!)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Those are AMAZING ideas for reality shows! I would watch all of them. I had NO idea you were in Romper Room! We used to watch it in kindergarten class. That’s awesome–and hilarious at the same time. The closest thing I’ve ever gotten to a “reality show” was when I helped model clothes in a storefront window. My mom’s friend opened a clothing store in the city where we lived, and she put me and another friend in the window to walk around in different outfits–I was probably about 12? It was fun–but also a little weird. The clothes were super cool, though–lots of bright colors and patterns. Very 80s.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I used to watch ‘Romper Room’ . . . cool that you were on it. These days all I can remember about it is the way she looked through that mirror frame (I think that’s what it was) at the end of the show and talk about who she was seeing through it. LOL! She never called my name, though. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ii loved watching Romper Room, especially the Mirror part. I was also on Reality TV when it was actual Reality.
    I was on Juvenile Jury in the 70’s. The Host would ask us questions, as would the audience and you never knew what we would come up with. One time, Grumpy The Dwarf visited and another time my sister was in the audience when she was 13. She is 8 years older than me, so that’s fun to rewatch. I got a copy of that episode from Sony Studio.
    I don’t like Reality Shows now, because the majority are actually scripted.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You were on Romper Room?! Dear God, does that bring back memories! We Xers were the last generation to experience an analog upbringing, weren’t we? Hard to believe there was a time when being on TV was the most exciting thing imaginable; now everyone is a viral video star!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Haha! I love the thought of you yelling “Saturday!” whilst taping an episode of Romper Room. That’s gonna make me chuckle all afternoon.

    As for the Reality Show Pitches, I LOVE the Cubicle Wars idea. I sincerely hope a Netflix exec gloms onto this idea.


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