The Competition of Strangers

Grand prize.

Who’s winning? I can never tell with everyone running around, screaming and sweating and glancing nervously at the timer thingy. Even if you do figure out which team has gained the competitive edge, the producers cut to commercial and you’re suddenly lost again. By the way, I’m not talking about the NFL. That’s an entirely different animal, and I’m pretty sure it has rabies. No, I’m talking about reality television competition shows. Ever since “Survivor,” the number of reality TV competitions has been slowly increasing, while the competitions themselves have become more and more ludicrous. Granted, “Survivor” is a pretty cool idea: a bunch of people stranded in the middle of nowhere with only a handful of camera operators to sneak them candy bars between shots. Then there was “Fear Factor,” which was like watching a fake game show in an Oliver Stone movie that indicted American society. After that, “Iron Chef” – a competition in which contestants, um, cook. OK. Fine. I guess that’s exciting. But that’s when the Food Network executives started eating too many magic brownies during pitch meetings and came up with shows like “Cupcake Wars,” and “Chopped,” and “Food Network Challenge: Robot Cakes.” Most recently, I saw a show called “Sweet Genius” that totally blew all of the aforementioned “competitions” out of the water in the Bizarro Department. The host looks like the kind of person who would, without warning, jump on your back and lick your ear, and the concept is just silly: four people frantically making desserts while a giant conveyor belt sends them ingredients and household objects that they must incorporate into the recipe. As if that’s not bad enough, now HGTV has a competition show for handymen and women. “On your marks, get set, build a bathroom!”

I need to start reading more.

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