As the weather gets nicer (for everyone else - here in PA we've had almost nothing but rain), summer reveals many of the world's splendors: playful sunshine, the salty air of the ocean, lightning fast greens on the golf course, and, of course, a television schedule full of reality shows.
A few years ago, the only reality shows I watched were 24 and sports, well except the NBA which really means "Not Basketball Anymore". But then we were bombarded with the voyeuristic temptation of watching people try to survive at a remote location, race across the globe, sing pop songs in hopes of not getting bloody insulted, and a show just about watching people live in a house together. When those shows hooked us in, the celebrities wanted in, at least the ones making less money than our Friends, so the suits decided to have them dance for the prize or go into the jungle and let people at home run their life. And it just kept growing - Simon brought us people who sort of have talent, another Simon and Nigel spun-off another idol show, and then TV execs thought they should recruit new talent by making them survive crazy tasks. (Please tell me I'm not the only one watching The Next Food Network Star.)
But among the entire variety of shows vying (and apparently getting) our attention are the shows that appear to be competing for the titles of "I have the most children" and "our life is crazier than your life". I'm pretty sure those are real Emmy awards? Yes, those are the ones Stephen Colbert keeps failing to win each year. And I honestly don't know what is sadder: that I watch these shows or that I am now actually picking up tabloids because I watch the shows.
Unless you have your own shopping assistant or you wear blinders in the supermarkets, you have to be seeing what is going on with Jon and Kate. Those two are getting more coverage than the ménage à (wait for it...) trois of Brangelina and Jen or Oprah's roller coaster weight changes. You know who they are: those two crazy people in central Pennsylvania that tried for "just one more" and ended up with 6. Those parents who are just trying to make it on a lifetime supply of diapers and around-the-clock volunteers of help folding laundry and making meals. Except the lifetime supply of diapers has turned into (what appears to be) free trips around the country, Emeril coming to the house to cook dinner, not-so-subtle product placements (at least they are being green, right?) , and more money in one or two episodes that most of us make in a year. Ok, their total college tuition for all 8 kids is likely going to be upwards of $2.5 million. And if I had a "butt in the front", I'd want that fixed, too.
I loved watching the show with my wife and sometimes even my 2 1/2-year-old daughter. She used to come in and say "Daddy, I want to watch the kids." Their life was hectic, chaotic yet strangely ordered, and those kids were just darn cute. And at first I was like "Wow - they are at the Crayola Factory just down the road for where I live" and "How do they make those trips with all those kids! We have enough trouble with 2 kids."
But then after the second skiing trip to Park City, Utah, and the spur of the moment getaways to places like San Diego, I started to wonder. Am I an enabler of this family become franchise? Am I contributing to the cycle of higher ratings brings more shows that produces more conflict between Jon and Kate which produces higher-rated episodes? Then I just started feeling bad that I am a part of the wedge tearing this Christian family apart. Wait, did I say Christian family?
Over the last few weeks that has been the saddest realization of this whole drama. Their identity as Christians, which was apparent early on, has all be disappeared. And what's even more clear is how easily that can happen to anyone even without fame and fortune, which just happens to be their catalyst. What are the things that we focus on that become the new mirror the reflects our lives? I'm finding that everyday I need to take inventory of my heart so that I will love my wife wholly and purely for her and not my own self interests, and my daughter Amelia will continue to make and hold on to statements like "Daddy, look, Jesus' cross where he died for us" and "Daddy, God loves you and mommy and Tayte and me!".
The television suits may have created reality franchises that suck people in over and over, but I for one (am pretty sure) I don't want their realities. Theirs might be a crazy life, but it's not the life for me. Now if I could only learn to cook, I could be on...