One of the myths about gay men is that they are more stylish and culturally aware than the average straight man.
The Netflix show Queer Eye (2018 to 2021) is a reboot of the early aughts reality makeover show of the same name that aired on Bravo. As with its predecessor, five gay guys with expertise in various areas (fashion, food, grooming, culture, and design) helps (mostly) hapless heterosexual males to improve their physical appearance and their lives.
This show is so much fun to watch, mainly because the stars of the program are having fun. As an audience member, I am rooting for that episode’s subject, wishing that they get everything that they want from this experience. It also opens the door to see the LGBTQ community as something more than stereotypes and boogeymen for those with conservative beliefs.
For the most part, I dislike reality television. The manipulation by the powers that be makes me feel like I am being used for ratings. However, there is a certain segment of the genre that also pushes boundaries and opens doors.
The 2003 reality dating competition show, Boy Meets Boy aired on the Bravo network. Hosted by Dani Behr, James Getzlaff was the potential romantic partner of 15 men. As is standard for the subgenre, each vied for his attention and heart. In the end, he would choose one and perhaps walk into the sunset with him. Assisting James in the process was his bestie, Andra Stasko.
The twist is that some of the “mates” as they were called, were straight. If James chose one of the gay mates, they would win a cash prize and a vacation to New Zealand. If he chose a mate who was heterosexual and pretending to be gay, James would walk away empty-handed.
In a sense, it was progressive, given when it aired. Seeing the LGBTQ community as fully-fledged human beings was still a relatively new idea at the time. However, it was still a reality show, and questionable as to how “real” it was.
Acting, in its basest form, is not a mystery. It is a person pretending to be someone else. But it may appear to the public that an actor who gets to a certain level in their career has an aura about them that the average person doesn’t.
Inside the Actors Studio (1994 to present) was a talk show that initially aired on Bravo before moving to the Ovation network. Originally hosted by the late James Lipton, each episode featured one actor. Focusing on their life and career, it became more than just an opportunity for the performer to talk about their resume. The audience watching on TV got to know that person on a deeper level and the young performers sitting in the auditorium had the opportunity to learn from someone who was once in their shoes.
I remember watching Inside the Actors Studio. It was a fascinating inside look at the act of performing and those who have made a success of it.
There are very few workplaces in which reality television has not touched.
The Bravo reality show Work Out aired from 2006 to 2008. The follow-up to another series from the network, Blow Out, the program follows Beverly Hills gym owner Jackie Warner as she both runs her business and deals with issues in her private life. As with every program in the genre, there is lots of drama that is supposed to draw the viewer in and keep them engaged.
Back then, it was appealing. It was a mixture of the beautiful people and their problems. Whether or not those problems were real or manufactured for the camera is another thing entirely. But just because I watched then does not mean I would watch it now.
When we can’t find love on our own, it is tempting to look to a matchmaker to find that special someone.
The Millionaire Matchmaker aired on Bravo from 2008-2015. Premiering shortly after Confessions of a Matchmaker, wealthy singles hired professional matchmaker Patti Stanger to help them find their other half. Once a client was accepted into the organization, Patti and her staff went through the process of introducing him or her to potential dates. Known as being dedicated and perhaps a bit abrasive, she has made it her life goal to spread love as far and wide as she can.
Anyone who has entered the dating pool knows that it can be hit or miss. Similarly, fans of reality television understand that what they are watching is not as authentic as it seems. I would categorize The Millionaire Matchmaker as a guilty pleasure. We want to root for the subjects of each episode, even when they are repulsive or need a reality check.
While it was on the air, it was reasonably compelling. There was enough narrative meat to keep the viewer engaged. But looking back, it has a “look at me” quality that I find to be presently unappealing. Like all reality television, the line between “reality” and amped up drama is not quite clear.
After watching a few episodes, I can understand why some Orthodox Jewish women are annoyed by how their community is portrayed, I think the viewer has to take into account that this is Haart’s perspective. I like the mental health aspect of the series, addressing how many women in conservative or fundamentalist may feel trapped by the constraints of their gender and the rules of their gender. I also liked how positively Judaism is portrayed. Though Haart is no longer Orthodox, she is still Jewish and not afraid to be open about it. It is educational without hitting the audience over the head.
It has the gloss of a Bravo reality show, but it is slightly less trashy and not as much of a brain drain as other programs in the genre.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
My Unorthodox Life is available for streaming on Netflix.
When it comes to talk shows, it’s popularity is based on the host as much as it is based on the guests or the format.
Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen has been on the Bravo schedule since 2009. Hosted by Andy Cohen, this late night talk show welcomes celebrities and pop culture luminaries. The topics usually center on what is going on in the world of Hollywood and entertainment. Instead of the usual late night talk show format in which only the host can ask questions, questions come from fans via social media and the telephone.
Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen is a pleasure to watch. I don’t watch this program very often, but when I do, I find that I am smiling. Andy is very personable, the topics and guests are a little off beat and I love the interactive aspect of the show.
The reality show genre has exploded over the past fifteen years or so. Every sub-genre under the term of “reality show” has had it’s day in the sun, for better or for worse.
Blow Out aired on Bravo from 2004-2006. The show followed the lives and careers of the staff of Jonathan Salon and the salon’s owner, Jonathan Antin. As with any reality show, the drama and personality differences between the participants created the narrative.
As I recall at the time, Blow Out was just another reality show. I understand the appeal of this genre, especially after a long day of work or school. Your brain has been pushed to the max all day and you just want to watching television that requires a little less thinking. However, as I recall, there was nothing special about Blow Out and in the end, it was nothing more than free marketing for the salon’s products and services.
Among the television spawn of the reality genre, there is none so compelling or mind numbing (depending on your point of view) than the competition program.
Shear Genius aired on Bravo from 2007 to 2010. Hosted during the first season by Jaclyn Smith and by Camila Alves (the other half of Matthew McConaughey) during the final two seasons, the purpose of the competition was to find the best hairdresser among the contestants. Each week, the contestants were challenged to create a unique hairstyle, but were forced to do so under restricted conditions. At the end of the reason, one contestant was named the winner.
Looking back, Shear Genius was not all that great. It was just another reality competition program where the competition was set in the world of hair styling. The only bright was Tabatha Coffey, who was named as fan favorite and had her own spin-off show, Tabatha Takes Over.
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