My NPR adventure: Death of Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs signals Honey Boo Boo-ification of reality TV
When Dirty Jobs star Mike Rowe told fans his Discovery show was ending after eight seasons of good natured fun, I was bummed out but not incredibly surprised.
The show had a long run and star Rowe has never seemed like the kind of guy to sit still for long. But I lamented the loss of a reality TV show which seemed to respect its subjects more than many, taking great care to depict the nobility in undertaking an icky gig and the pride which comes from doing even a dirty job well.
Then I happened upon a commercial for one of the new unscripted shows coming to Discovery: Amish Mafia.
It seemed like an unfair, disturbing exchange. And perhaps a bit of a parable for where the cutting edge of reality TV is these days on cable.
So I pulled together a commentary for NPR on what I call the "Honey Boo Boo-ification" of non-fiction TV, especially on cable. (It's particularly telling, given that TV icon Barbara Walters has named the star of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo as one of her Most Fascinating People of 2012.)
Fans of reality television may disagree, but I've grown tired of exploitive stuff such as the Real Housewives series, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Hillbilly Handfishing and any number of other unscripted shows whose secret sauce is making fun of people who are often working class, often from the South or some ethnic/social subculture and often not terribly sophisticated.
So here's my piece below, with the trailer for Amish Mafia. Feel free to let me know how you feel in the comments section below.