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get real.
my time spent in an alternate reality
by matt morin

Everyone has their weaknesses. Their addictions.

Robert Downey Jr. can't seem to keep Class A narcotics from finding their way into his bloodstream. (I hate it when that happens.) Mike Tyson is so addicted to beating people up, he doesn't even wait to get into the ring. Even former president Bill Clinton is helpless when alone with a woman who's not related to him. And if you're a member of the Dallas Cowboys, all of the above applies. But I've got an addiction that's worse than all of them. And as much as I hate to do it, admitting my problem is the first step to recovery.

Hello. My name is Matt Morin and I'm addicted to reality TV.

Wow. That was tough. But it's true. I love reality TV. I think it all started as a kid with the WWF – the true granddaddy of reality TV, if you think about it. But that was just one show a week. I could handle my addiction then. These days, I'm spiraling out of control. Survivor. Big Brother. TI:2. Blind Date. Dismissed. Real World. Road Rules. Shipmates. Third Wheel. Chains of Love. The Love Cruise. The Mole. Fear Factor. Even Pop Stars and Making The Band, for God's sake. Other than reality TV, literally the only things I watch on television are news and sports. (And you can make a strong argument that those count, too.) I knew I had hit rock bottom when I realized that I don't watch this stuff because I love to hate it. I watch it because I really do love it. Every last second I gobble up like a box of Twinkies at a Weight Watchers meeting.

First and foremost, I love watching the people on these shows pretend to act real. I mean face it, that's what they're doing. Pretending. It's hard enough to just be yourself on a first date. Now imagine if you're on that first date with a cameraman, sound guy, and 3 other production assistants following you around. Talk about pressure. Suddenly you don't just have to impress Tammy, the cute blonde from Venice Beach, you have to try and impress several million viewers, too. Or think about this: You're picked as one of seven early twenty-somethings to be on one of the most popular shows in the history of MTV. The last thing you want to be known as is "the boring one." If that's not a recipe for doing and saying things you'd never do in real life, I don't know what is. I mean, every other couple on Blind Date ends up in the hot tub together. What? We don't all end up making out in the hot tub on a first date? I know that happens to me all the time. Or better yet, last night on Dismissed, I actually watched one guy get naked in front of his obviously unimpressed date. Somehow I'm thinking if the cameras weren't around, the cops would be.

And speaking of the (actors?) participants, I love wondering what sort of social sadomasochists these people are? Are people that desperate for attention that they'll agree to have their persona completely reshaped by some producer? Whether Jerri from Survivor 2 is a bitch or not, I'll probably never know. But you can bet that most of America thinks she is – all based on 30 days in the outback that we watched with Budweiser in hand from the comfort of our living room. They way these people are portrayed is spun more than a presidential campaign speech. It's a given that everyone on reality shows gets their day – one show that's mostly devoted to them. Ever notice how the producers wait several shows before these start appearing? They want us to draw our own conclusions about each person, so they've got something to play off of.

I love how formulaic reality TV is. Every Real World has the naïve, small town Midwesterner who doesn't know anything about the big, scary city and the hard-nosed, raised-on-the-mean-streets African American who's there to make everyone realize how great their lives really are. There's also the all-American white boy and they usually throw in a homosexual to teach everyone a nice little message about tolerance, too. It's all so politically correct, it makes the casting director for Sesame Street look racist.

I love that the producers still claim all these shows are real. Survivor and TI:2 have sets that would make the crew of The Price Is Right envious. The only thing more contrived than Survivor's Tribal Council is when they play "Just Can't Get You Off My Mind" by Lenny Kravitz when some Road Rules member is pining for a boyfriend she left behind. How real can Blind Date be when 90% of the people on the show list their occupations as "Model/Actor"? That's not real. Real would be if two thirds of the single guys on TIi:2 had beer guts and back hair. And I'm sorry, real life does not include post-production. The soundtracks, the sets, the $5 million houses, the editing, the B-roll cutaways, the pre-arranged jobs and set-up "missions," the retakes, the teaser promos – it all adds to a Disneylandic quality I just can't help but watch.

But just like with anything you abuse, it's a product of diminishing returns. I just don't get the same thrill when two of the new Real World Chicago cast members shower together as I did six years ago when they did it on the Miami season. So I'm cutting back – partially because a lot of these shows aren't even lasting one season. I've turned my attention to other pursuits. I'm reading more. I'm writing more. And of course my favorite thing to do these days is watch movies. Especially documentaries.


Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.

more about matt morin


michelle von euw
1.29.02 @ 9:01a

Matt, I saved a seat for you on the couch - we can flip back and forth between TI:2 and Dismissed.

My theory on reality TV is this: it's original purpose was to make the viewer jealous of the experiences the contestants were having. Now, it seems to exist solely to make the viewer feel superior to the lowly, miserable people on the TV screen.

tracey kelley
1.29.02 @ 9:11a

The closest I ever came to watching reality tv was a show on the Discovery Channel a few years ago called "Travelers!" (yes, with an exclamation point). I watched with drooling envy. I had just moved to Des Moines, it was the middle of a dreary winter, and I didn't have a job or any new friends. I sat in front of the Discovery channel, ogling these 5 young rich kids as they ventured around the world to exotic places. My life was crap, crap I tell you, compared to these able explorers.

A year later, I recognize 1 of the hosts on a home-repair show, and another as a game show host. I didn't feel so bad after that.

matt morin
2.27.02 @ 12:13a

This Thursday - the season premiers of Survivor and Tough Enough.

If anyone needs me, I'll be on the couch.

jack bradley
2.27.02 @ 12:45a

"It's all so politically correct, it makes the casting director for Sesame Street look racist."

This line makes me want to run in circles with my arms in the air, Kermit-style. Fantastic.

adam kraemer
2.27.02 @ 9:24a

I don't know much about LA, but as far as "Blind Date" goes - if you're looking for attractive people to appeal to the audience, why wouldn't most of them be model/actors?

michelle von euw
2.27.02 @ 9:31a

Matt, I am on a charity auction committee, and I got Chris Harvard from the first Tough Enough to donate two WWF tickets and ringside advice.

mike julianelle
2.27.02 @ 10:48a

He was readin Atlas Shrugged, or The Fountainhead, in one episode. AND wearing a BC shirt.

michelle von euw
2.27.02 @ 11:28a

One of the yellow SuperFans ones!

mike julianelle
2.27.02 @ 11:42a

Yeah, I hate those. They started when I was there. Cheese.

matt morin
2.27.02 @ 12:01p

Man, did they make that guy out to be the bad guy on that show or what? It seemed like everyone hated him.

heather millen
2.27.02 @ 12:43p

Maybe I walk alone. I can't STAND reality tv. Ever since my roomate started camping out with the "Survivors" each Wednesday since Season 1. What about the last episode of the latest Survivor where the final tribal council was held on an LA soundstage?

Besides, my own paltry little life holds more drama. Remember Real World New Orleans? Those people were so damn bored they started painting chairs....

mike julianelle
2.27.02 @ 12:58p

I also hate reality TV. Makes me sick. Survivor is so over. End it. And end the countless clones!!!

matt morin
2.27.02 @ 1:09p

But Heather, don't you just love it that, despite the fact Real World New Orleans was so boring, you actually sat there and watched the episode where they painted chairs!

I'm telling you, as much as anyone hates reality TV, it is impossible to turn away from.

michelle von euw
2.27.02 @ 1:16p

I stopped watching Real World ten years ago. But then I "accidentally" caught a RW Chicago marathon on President's Day, and now I'm hooked. Although Bunim and Murray are so manipulative: contestants must get bonus points if they admit to sleeping around/drink all the time on their audition tapes.


michelle von euw
2.27.02 @ 1:16p

Matt, they did make Chris look like the bad guy on Tough Enough (watched the marathon this weekend). But he's been soooooo nice to me.

jael mchenry
2.27.02 @ 1:34p

I can turn away from it. I don't watch it. Except for four or five weeks of Real World New York, because it was an interesting study of how people who are completely wrong can view themselves as completely right. Then they veered off into a bitch-bitch-whine-whine-it's-so-hard-to-find-
men-in-this-city thing, and the affair ended.

sarah ficke
2.27.02 @ 2:31p

I'm not big on the reality tv either. I remember getting hooked on a Real World London marathon once, but it wasn't enough to get me to watch the show on a regular basis. Dismissed is pretty funny though, in a very painful way.

d b
2.27.02 @ 2:43p

my roommate is also hooked - i knew she was, but i didn't know how badly until she moved in here. a while back she stopped reading one of our favorite sports columnists because he took a shot at the jersey-frat-brother team from "the amazing race." this week she threw a fit because they didn't vote anyone off "real world-road rules challenge." and she has vowed to make it her mission to turn me into a "survivor" fan. i must resist! i think i'll start a support group for family and friends of reality-TV addicts ... "Real-Anon"?

adam kraemer
2.27.02 @ 2:44p

Wasn't he the druid in that Terry Brooks series?

mike julianelle
2.27.02 @ 2:50p

Everyone back away from Adam. Slowly.

sarah ficke
2.27.02 @ 3:13p

Whoa, that brings back memories.

adam kraemer
2.27.02 @ 3:14p

Sword of Shannara, baby.

Wow. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.


mike julianelle
2.27.02 @ 3:17p

Never got into that guy's stuff. Tried one once, I think, but not for me.

matt morin
2.27.02 @ 3:18p

Adam, you amaze me.

And Donna, I was pissed that they didn't vote anyone off the RW/RR Challenge this week, too. It's all about the carnage...

adam kraemer
2.27.02 @ 3:22p

I amaze myself. The druid was Alanon, by the way.

I usually get my reality fix between walking through the living room while my roommate is addictively watching, and the late-night call from my friend Lisa who feels compelled to share the highlights with me.

matt morin
2.27.02 @ 3:26p

MightybigTV.com has the world's best write-ups of reality TV shows. Last season, Adam - the guy with ADD, was constantly referred to as ADDam.

jael mchenry
2.27.02 @ 3:43p

I am loving them right now (TWoP, formerly MBTV) with their 24 writeups -- not reality, I know, but still on topic. The 24 ones are great because they refer to Kiefer and the Kieferettes (Bride and Spawn) and occasionally lapse into starting all their words with K's. Trust me, it's funny.

michelle von euw
2.27.02 @ 4:09p

And when they get really clever, they refer to them as SoK and BoK.

The RW/RR challenge recaps on MightyBigPity or whatever are hysterical. Then I tried to watch the show and was thoroughly confused, as I'd never actually seen Road Rules, and the only RWers I recognized were voted off the first week. But I did know that the Wicks were eeeeeevil.

lee anne ramsey
2.27.02 @ 4:24p

No one has mentioned yet the queen mother of all reality programming: talk shows.

I believe it was Phil Donahue who actually spawned Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer etc where REAL people get on tv and turn their insides out for everyone else to look at.

matt morin
2.27.02 @ 5:20p

I was trying to figure out a good place to work talk shows into my column. They certainly reside somewhere in the reality TV category. (Although one could probably argue they're more fiction than fact.)

I had a friend who was once contacted by Jenny Jones. She wanted her to come on the "Someone has a secret crush on you" show. My friend declined.

I would have gone in a heartbeat.

heath kraynak
2.27.02 @ 6:36p

Reality Show Confession:

I applied for RW SF. I'm convinced Judd beat me out for the "artsy white guy" role. I hate that guy.

My ex-girlfriend dated Puck (after me).

Matt, you left out Project Greenlight. Great show.

matt morin
2.27.02 @ 7:05p

Heath, I applied for RW SF, too. I think Mohammed beat me out for the African-American role.

Although I guess I can see why...

jack bradley
2.28.02 @ 5:24a

I actually went and looked at your Intrepid profile to make sure I understood what you meant by that, Matt.

I applied for Australian Survivor, (not Survivor, Australia...just to be clear) but got knocked out pretty early on. The series is on now, and I just gotta say that I'm glad they didn't choose me. Talk about a daggy group of people...it's like they removed anyone with a sense of humour or enthusiasm. What a bunch of whingeing gits.

(And I still don't see why a hair dryer wouldn't make a great luxury item.)

adam kraemer
2.28.02 @ 9:50a

I refuse to believe that "whinegeing" is a word. Jack's trying to co-opt the language again.

russ carr
2.28.02 @ 10:38a

Read Infinite Jest if you can lift it, Adam. All kinds of whingeing therein.

adam kraemer
2.28.02 @ 10:50a

I actually have been using it for the past year to keep one of my stereo speakers level. I'll get around to reading past page 12 one of these days.

sarah ficke
2.28.02 @ 10:51a

You know, I almost mentioned Infinite Jest about 11 posts back in this discussion and didn't. For a different reason, obviously. Scary...

roger striffler
2.28.02 @ 11:59a

Ok, I'll admit to having gotten sucked into a RW marathon when I was hung-over on the couch one day. But that's it.

And you know what? In a slightly sick, twisted, holier-than-though-for-no-apparent-reason kind of way, I'm proud of the fact that I've never seen a single episode of Survior. Any of them. Ever. I hate to admit it, but deep down, I feel really smug about it too.

It all just strikes me as a big joke, that a lot of people are falling for.

If I'm going to spend hours of my life on the couch watching something, give me movies any day.

russ carr
2.28.02 @ 12:36p

Coming Mar. 11 on Fox: Celebrity Boxing. So far, the card includes Barry "Greg Brady" Williams vs. Danny "Danny Partridge" Bonaduce and Tonya "Kneecaps" Harding vs. Amy "Long Island Lolita" Fisher. The third contest has yet to be filled.

I nominate Mikey and Joe.

mike julianelle
2.28.02 @ 12:41p

Well, Joe's hardly a celebrity, Russ. I myself am pretty well known, however.

matt morin
2.28.02 @ 12:46p

Tonya Harding against Amy Fisher?

That is quite possibly the greatest matchup the world has ever seen.

mike julianelle
2.28.02 @ 1:06p


matt morin
3.1.02 @ 1:16p

Survivor was so funny last night. All the contestants looked exactly like contestants from previous shows.

adam kraemer
3.1.02 @ 1:29p

You noticed that, too? Thank God I was also watching Friends and Family Guy.

matt morin
3.1.02 @ 1:33p

For a while, I thought Sarah, the hot blonde with the fake breasts actually WAS Lindsay from Survivor Africa.

matt morin
3.1.02 @ 5:45p

A somewhat interesting article about "Blind Date." http://

russ carr
3.4.02 @ 9:34a

UPDATE: Amy Fisher has been replaced on the Celebrity Boxing card by Paula "zzzzzzip!" Jones. Jones says she's not intimidated by Harding, but is fearful of having her new nose job damaged.

mike julianelle
3.4.02 @ 10:04a

Sorry, but the best match is Vanilla Ice vs. ????

The suspense is killing me!

matt morin
3.4.02 @ 1:20p

I'm guessing it's MC Hammer.

mike julianelle
3.4.02 @ 2:30p

I'd rather it be...Gerardo. Or whoever's left from Milli Vanilli. Rob or Fab.

jael mchenry
3.4.02 @ 4:09p

Hot Chocolate?

adam kraemer
3.4.02 @ 4:20p

Anyone see the MTV special where they retired the 10 worst videos or something? Hosted by Denis Leary, Chris Kattan, Janeane Garofalo, and Jon Stewart; Vanilla Ice came in during the show and basically took a baseball bat to the entire set. It was both hysterical and scary.

mike julianelle
3.4.02 @ 4:45p

I did see that, or else I saw a clip of it on MTV's Most Outrageous Already Aired Moments Special.

jack bradley
3.4.02 @ 7:25p

Part IIXIV (repeat).

russ carr
3.6.02 @ 12:58p


The final card just announced: Vanilla Ice vs. Todd "Whatchu Talkin' Bout Willis" Bridges.

And while Amy Fisher's alleged withdrawal is due to her parole board nixing the fight, apparently Todd Bridges' parole board has no such problem...

mike julianelle
3.6.02 @ 1:06p

I was going to post that myself! That is TOO funny. It's fitting that they got a black guy to fight Vanilla Ice. If Willis fails, he'll be a laughingstock! Wait, he already is...

adam kraemer
3.6.02 @ 1:34p

Speaking of reality shows, anyone see The Osbournes last night? Friggin' hysterical.

matt morin
3.6.02 @ 1:54p

Yes! A few weeks back I got an e-mail from a friend who's an editor for that show. He told me it was going to be awesome. And it sure was.

I've been told there's even funnier stuff they can't put on TV.

adam kraemer
3.6.02 @ 1:59p

That doesn't surprise me at all. Ozzy cracks me up.

michelle von euw
3.6.02 @ 4:24p

I don't know -- it felt kind of staged. The Ozzies were too aware of the cameras, you know? And after the immense pain of Veronica-the-ho on the Real World before it, it was quaint and rather trite.

We did laugh a lot, but mostly because it felt like a trainwreck.

adam kraemer
3.6.02 @ 4:31p

I just love that they bleeped almost as much of his speech as they allowed.

matt morin
3.6.02 @ 4:56p

The rest of his speech you couldn't even understand.

Michelle, wasn't Real World great? Isn't Veronica a total bitch? Isn't Anissa an all-day sucker for putting up with it? And did you see the previews for next week? FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

Did I mention I love reality

heath kraynak
3.6.02 @ 10:09p

After watching the Ozbornes, I'm convinced "A Beautiful Mind" is based on Ozzy.

But then again, in jr. high I had an "Ozzy For President" T-Shirt.

d b
3.6.02 @ 11:00p

i'm glad i watched my roommate's taped episode of "the real world" last night because otherwise i would have missed "the osbournes." absolutely brilliant. i couldn't understand a word ozzy said. and his kids are almost as insane as he is. bravo!

michelle von euw
3.7.02 @ 9:35a

Matt, I'm totally with you. This Veronica chick dissed Aneesa hard -- in her home, in front of her roommates, not to mention the many, many cameras. And the previews for next week show them together? What the-?? Yeah, there better be a fight.

The best part of the Osbournes was when Jay Leno asked Ozzie for his autograph. That scene was so funny. His kids seem like they're acting all the time. Sharon is cool, though.

matt morin
3.7.02 @ 12:47p

Sharon just seems to put up with it all. But both Osbourne kids are hillarious. Possibly the most warped kids on the planet.

Do you think they have any real friends?

jael mchenry
3.7.02 @ 1:19p

Would someone describe this "dissing"? I'm curious.

michelle von euw
3.7.02 @ 1:30p

OK, Aneesa (cast member) meets this girl Veronica, they go on some dates, they make out, they sleep together (literally and possibly figuratively, it was unclear). Next, Aneesa gets a call from Veronica's exgirlfriend, using Veronica's cell phone, saying, "We just had sex." Some time passes; Veronica eventually comes over to apologize or something. Next, Veronica calls Anessa to say she left her bag at the Real World house, and she arrives to pick it up -- with supposed "ex" girlfriend in tow.

jael mchenry
3.7.02 @ 1:57p

OH yeah, that's dissing. I'm totally behind this fight idea now.

matt morin
3.7.02 @ 3:14p

The previews for next week showed pushing and shoving and cop cars pulling up with lights flashing.

Nothing like a girl fight to get people all fired up.

matt morin
3.7.02 @ 7:48p

OK, I just stumbled upon www.realitytvfans.com and found out they're taking applications for Big Brother 3.

jael mchenry
3.8.02 @ 11:27a

Stumbled. Hmm hmm. Yeah.

matt morin
3.13.02 @ 1:30a

OK, if you haven't seen The Osbournes on MTV, do so. It is quite possibly the greatest thing on TV ever.

matt morin
3.14.02 @ 3:33p

Did anyone catch Celebrity Boxing last night on FOX? I can't believe I missed it.

I read that Tanya Harding whooped Paula Jones' ass and Danny Bonnaducci beat Greg Brady to a pulp.

adam kraemer
3.14.02 @ 3:35p

It was fun. Not good TV, but fun. I felt really bad for the commentators who had to say things like, "Well, Tanya Harding is the only one here to have competed in front of a global crowd, but Paula Jones has shown that she won't be intimidated by anyone." My favorite part was the guy who held up the sign that read "TAYNA is TERRIFIC!"

mike julianelle
3.14.02 @ 3:38p

I thought the Brady fight was hilarious, he got pummelled. The Willis fight seemed too real, tho I barely watched that one. And what I caught of the main event was depressing. My favorite part was the announcers playing up Tonya's cheap shot at the end, just capitalizing on her rep.

matt morin
5.21.02 @ 5:55p

OK, you knew it was coming: Celebrity Boxing II.

Olga Korbut vs. Darva Conger
Screetch vs. Horshack
Manute Bol vs. William Perry
Joey Buttafuoco vs. Joanie Laurer (Chyna from the WWF)

A few will be entertaining.

matt morin
6.24.02 @ 5:45p

OK, I think this whole reality programming thing is getting out of hand. From an online job board here in SF:

We are looking for a professional male phone sex worker who is available for a half-day shoot for a new reality TV series based in Britain. The shoot would involve being on-camera taking calls, teaching our host/presenter how to be a phone sex worker, and then letting him take a few calls from real callers. The shoot would take place where you work, preferably in your home. You must be able to demonstrate that you are currently working as a phone sex operator with an established company and a busy clientele (nothing staged). You must also be able to get clearance from your employer for the shoot. We will contact you if we think you are a good candidate.

erik myers
6.24.02 @ 10:03p

So are you going to apply?

matt morin
6.25.02 @ 3:45a

I'm not a professional male phone sex worker. Just an amateur.

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