Reality Bites: Forensic Files

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Photo courtesy of Forensic Files
"The truth is out there, most likely under a black light."
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

My first thought, when I sat down to take in the first episode of Forensic Files I've watched in -- well -- forever, was "This show is still on?" It seems like only yesterday I was mostly broke and watching FF in one of the first apartments I lived in here in Houston, during it's initial run on what we only now sarcastically refer to as the Learning Channel. It later spent the bulk of its life on Court TV/truTV, before it came to its current resting spot in syndication on HLN, formerly Headline News.

And I've since moved into a house, though I'm still mostly broke.

They're not producing new ones, a fact I only realized when I hit the Info button on my remote midway through. Still, that hasn't stopped me when writing this before, and I'll be damned if I'm enduring any of The Bachelor this season.


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Reality Bites: Kate Plus 8

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Photo courtesy of The Learning Channel
I bet that's Jon's bloody handprint on the bowl.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

After all the tabloid unpleasantness surrounding serial breeders Jon and Kate Gosselin, they did an admirable job dropping out of the public eye. True, the first season of Kate Plus 8 (no longer with the Jon & in the title), which included appearances by Jon even as the two were going through divorce proceedings, aired in 2009, and a second season ended in 2011, but we've seen next to nothing since then.

And because all of this took place well before the debut of "Reality Bites," I naturally figured I'd dodged a bullet.

Unfortunately, my luck began to run out in 2014 when a handful of K+8 specials aired, and sure enough, my shrine to Lakshmi went into the dumpster when Season Three was announced. True. time has softened my perceptions of mom Kate somewhat (and of everything else, 2011 was four years and several hundred bottles of gin ago), so when I saw Kate Plus 8 was about to kick off again, I said, "It can't be any worse than Eaten Alive, right?"


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Reality Bites: Impractical Jokers

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Photo courtesy of TruTV
Wacky *and* zany. What a combo.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Hidden-camera humor dates all the way back to the early days of photography, when Matthew Brady famously encouraged Union officials to "bomb" his portrait sittings of Ulysses S. Grant. Tragically, misunderstanding of slang led to one general being executed for attempted murder and treason, and the practice was largely abandoned for almost a hundred years until the arrival of Allen Funt's Candid Camera, which also ushered in the Sexual Revolution.

Subsequent efforts have produced mixed results. MTV's Jackass incorporated goofs on unsuspecting bystanders as part of the show's general theme of combining cringe humor with severe body trauma, while HBO's Taxicab Confessions demonstrated the technology's utility in capturing drunk people feeling each other up in the backs of cars.

Impractical Jokers, which premiered in 2011, is the latest in this illustrious line. It changes up the formula a bit, but as is often the case with these types of shows, isn't nearly as funny as it thinks it is.


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Reality Bites: Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve

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Photo courtesy of ABC
Resistance is futile.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

It's New Year's Eve. Many of you are doubtless girding your loins and hardening your livers for a night on the town, while others may opt for parties hosted at various friends' domiciles. If you plan on indulging, please make good use of Uber or the city's various taxi services. Otherwise, have the decency to pass out in a bathroom stall somewhere.

The parents among you -- those who aren't entrusting your offspring to a teenager who's going to raid your medicine cabinets for Adderall as soon as your headlights disappear around the corner, that is -- will likely make an early night of it, secure in the knowledge your trusting little darlings don't yet know the difference between 8:35 PM and midnight.

Whatever your plans, there's a good chance a TV somewhere in the vicinity will be set to ABC, so anyone interested can watch that annual reminder of America's love of variety TV and apostrophes, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.


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Reality Bites: Chug

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Photo courtesy of National Geographic
"So, Austrians *weren't* Nazis?"
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Who doesn't like to drink? Recovering alcoholics, I guess. Also people who are allergic to it. Oh, and those of you who don't like the way it makes you feel, or the taste, or the fact you flunked out of college because you discovered tequila your freshman year and spent the next two years in a haze of keg stands and impromptu road trips to SeƱor Frogs.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like *my* freshman year.

So fine, plenty of you don't like to drink, but plenty still do, and for those people (who also have ample disposable income), there's Chug, National Geographic's new travel drinking show. Because what could possibly go wrong when you get drunk overseas?


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Reality Bites: Eaten Alive

Fool me once, shame on you...

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

I didn't actually watch Eaten Alive when it aired last weekend, though I understand quite a few people did. How do I know this? Because they were unbelievably whiny in their disappointment:

No way I would have done what he did, but why build the show up and him not even be eaten alive? I mean... He wasn't even close. #EatenAlive -- Ty Shute' (@TyShute33) December 8, 2014

Discovery letting me think Paul gets eaten by a snake and then not letting that happen is the reason I have trust issues. #EatenAlive
-- Zac Dalpe (@ZacDalpe22) December 8, 2014

And it went on like this, apparently, for two hours. Obviously the prospect of being able to react immediately to a man getting swallowed whole by a python was a big reason people tuned in live, but for the first time in years I was happy for my "experience" with reality shows. I knew better than to sit through the overwrought two hour(!) buildup, recording the show for future ... well, I don't want to call it "enjoyment." Call it an opportunity to exercise my fast forward finger.

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Reality Bites: Antiques Roadshow

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Photo courtesy of PBS.org
Just once I want someone to bring in their vintage collection of "Barely Legal Teens."
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

When thinking of reality shows, one generally doesn't consider PBS. That might not make a a lot of sense at first; after all, the network airs programs which certainly qualify.

Then again, none of those invoke the usual imagery associated with the genre. There's no screaming on American Masters, no Kardashians on This Old House, and the History Detectives actually investigate items of significance with more rigor than a Google search.

Also, nobody screams at each other. As far as I know, that is. I hear that Judy Woodruff can get a little salty.

Covering this genre as long as I have, I sometimes forget the existence of shows I actually enjoy. Years of plumbing the depths of America's obsession with drunken rednecks and wife swapping almost made me miss the fact I've been watching -- and enjoying -- one particular reality show for years now. No, not Cheaters, I'm talking about Antiques Roadshow.

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Reality Bites: Hungry Games

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Richard Blais: almost human.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

The first Mockingjay -- which is the penultimate entry in the Hunger Games movie franchise -- comes out this week. Normally I'd have reviewed it, but I was unable to make the screening. You can probably count on some stuff happening, sufficiently padded out to make a 390-page book stretch for two feature-length films.

Even though I honestly wasn't that upset that I didn't have to drag myself out to hang with an audience more suited to monster truck fandom than sitting quietly in a theater, I figured I'd try and make it up to you. So for this week's Reality Bites, I tried to find something similar in tone, if not overall archery content.

The result: Hungry Games, a show I hadn't heard about before I found it on my channel guide and am likely never to watch again. In that last respect, it's a lot like those Jennifer Lawrence movies.


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Reality Bites: Wealth On The Water

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Eh, close enough.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

We recently had our AT&T U-verse receivers replaced (we'd had the old ones since 2008, au revoir 15 hours of Doc McStuffins). Naturally, I had to create a new "favorites" list, which led to even more time-suckage, considering the number of new networks for my perusal.

One of these I noticed was called AWE. Foolishly assuming the name meant it only broadcast programs of the most kickass nature, I added it, then was just as quickly disabused of that assumption when I looked the station up. "AWE" apparently stands for "A Wealth [of] Entertainment." More amusingly, it once went by the name "Wealth TV." Imagine, a whole channel devoted to nothing but the hobbies and interests of the super-rich.

Haven't they waited long enough?


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Reality Bites: Naked and Afraid

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Reminds me of a Roxy Music album cover.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Forget Ebola, America is in the midst of a nudity epidemic.

Having already worked the black seam of wine-soaked, furniture-tossing housewives and twentysomething mooks on the make to exhaustion, reality TV programmers finally realized there was one taboo (in America, anyway) they had yet to fully exploit: nekkidness.

The first tentative steps into this pants-optional territory came with TLC's Buying Naked, the show for potential nudist homeowners. Then there was Dating Naked, VH1's answer to the age-old question, "How long can two people make small talk before looking at each other's junk?"

Never one to shirk from a cultural bar-lowering, the Discovery Channel has responded with Naked and Afraid, a survival show with the ultimate twist: uh, they're naked. But you probably already figured that out.


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