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Is Reality Real? Really? Why I Wanna Be a Wannabe

June 28, 2010

Guest post – Best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard

Perhaps I’ve watched ‘The Apprentice’ twice. Perhaps it is because I am unjust to Donald Trump, unfairly prejudiced against his hair comb, although I admit his other abilities.

I watched ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ once, because I can’t figure out if Sharon Osbourne is gallant or nuts – and because she survived colon cancer, the disease that killed my husband.

What I really like to watch are cooking and designer shows. My favorites are ‘Chopped’ and ‘Project Runway.’ I have a son who’s a chef and love seeing tension juxtaposed with knives. And Heidi Klum’s icy gentleness is somewhere between Supernanny and Berlin, 1938. She fascinates me.

But when I say that these are my “favorites,” I mean I’ve watched them … maybe four times each.

Except for ‘Law and Order,’ ‘Glee’ and ‘The Good Wife’ (Dick Wolf, I’m still ready for my cameo!) I’m not a big TV fan. I was addicted to ‘West Wing’ and, a thousand years ago, to ‘The X-Files,’ and I’ll watch almost any drama and have even been caught watching the Hallmark Channel.

If I were a big TV fan, I wouldn’t watch reality TV. Reality TV seems, to me, like a business lunch, that is to say, it’s neither thing. Shows like ‘Bad Girls,’ and ‘The Hills’ and that one about the rich girls with the long hair and the Armenian last name make me want to set myself on fire. I keep waiting for the show called ‘Ridealong with the LA County Coroner,’ and mark my words, it’s going to happen.

But talk shows pre-dated reality TV, although the two forms have blended in the age of rants and reunions.

So why do I want my own talk show?

Why am I willing – no, eager! – to make a fool of myself in front of God and country by submitting a video audition on Jacquelyn’s Audition: Oh, Jackie! (Reinvent Yourself. Reinvent Your World) – OWN TV to be considered as a contestant on a reality show for which the grand prize is … well, your own talk show on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network?)

Undoubtedly, it’s because it’s I remember from being a child sneaking down the hall at night in our apartment to watch ‘Dick Cavett.’

I’ve watched old films of the Dick Cavett show and it would never make it on TV today. Everything is plain, slow and cerebral. The guests sat on regular chairs and Cavett’s monologues were often about his obsession with things that nobody had really got on board with yet – like the dangers of the airplane then known as the Super-Sonic Transport, ‘The Concorde.’ And yet, when it came to the Concorde, Cavett was prescient: The Air France airliner crashed ten years ago next month, ending effectively that mode of expensive, unnecessary high-speed travel. Cavett also had really funny people on. At the age of 11, I didn’t know much about Gore Vidal and Truman Capote but they fought in a way that I found hysterically bitchy and cool. Charlie Rose is the closet thing around to that old show now. But it’s just not funny, or if it is, it’s too dry for the modern palate. Bill Maher is incredibly funny but too vulgar even for me and definitely too vulgar for daytime. ‘The View’ is the closest  thing around but it’s too often a hen party or mean-spirited or silly – with Barbara Walters’ exasperation plain when she has to listen to her co-hosts take off on a subject with no regard for facts and plenty for their own polarized beliefs. (I exempt Joy Behar. I love Joy Behar.)

If I watch talk shows now, it’s generally Joy Behar. I don’t like that Jon Stewart, although he’s really smart and terribly funny, doesn’t really have “guests.” He has 58-second confrontations with other smart and funny people, or people with whom he has a bone to pick. Joy Behar luxuriates with her guests. Then she adds more. Sometimes, it’s just one person. It’s like a long visit with an old friend.

And that’s what I would want to do – a daytime vision of Joy Behar with a little more snap and slapstick a la Ellen DeGeneres (there is only one Ellen and long may she reign), with some stories that are really stories (like Oprah’s story about Janni, a seven-year-old schizophrenic, who is the beautiful and tragic daughter of two of my dear friends). There would also be some visits that are really visits, in the manner of James Lipton on ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio,’ although perhaps not quite so … er, long-winded and worshipful (sorry James; really, still ask my son Marty to be on one day when he’s famous!).

So let’s do this. Go to Jacquelyn’s Audition: Oh, Jackie! (Reinvent Yourself. Reinvent Your World) – OWN TVand vote for me. This is how you do it.

For you, it’s a win-win. If you think I’m a self-seeking nut, you can see me fall on my bizonga.

If you think I’ve got a decent head and a good heart and some chops, maybe you’ll identify with me as one of your own.

Anyhow, if you’re not gigging, you’re dying. So let’s have some fun before we die.

Jacquelyn Mitchard, is author of the best-selling novel The Deep End of the Ocean, which was the first selection for Oprah’s Book Club. Other books by Mitchard include The Breakdown Lane, Twelve Times BlessedChristmas, Present, A Theory of RelativityThe Most WantedCage of Stars, and No Time to Wave Goodbye.

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