Television is a passive experience, to say the least. In fact, is there anything MORE passive than sitting motionless on your couch, watching a flickering screen while your hand methodically plunges into a bag of Baked Lays? Maybe if you’re in a coma and can’t open your eyes (aka my worst nightmare).
The thing is, watching television doesn’t have to be all that passive. We speak volumes in what we choose to watch and not watch. And, in fact, by choosing NOT to watch some shows and watching others, we can actually make a difference. (Cue patriotic music)
Take, for example, Jon & Kate Plus 8. I used to love this show, way back before Kate Gosselin became the answer to US Weekly’s prayers. I can remember, exactly one year ago, when I was living with my friends, having just moved to Chicago, and having marathon viewings of the show on the weekends when TLC saw fit to air their cash cow in solid six hour blocks. We even managed to get my friend Adam hooked. I’d been following the show for a while and got a kick out of Kate’s aggressive intensity, Jon’s monosyllabic reaction to pretty much everything (talk about passive- lord) and the adorableness of their eight children. Watching that chaos made our lives seem so simple, the quiet and lack of overwhelming responsibility so appealing. And I’m not the only one who felt that way. Indeed, most parents with two or three children of their own to contend with finished an episode of J&KP8 with a sigh of relief.
And now? That tabloid explosion that was heard around the globe has ruined the show for me. None of us have any idea, not really, about what’s really going on and the conjecture on both sides has, of course, blown the situation way out of proportion. They’re a couple getting separated- that’s all. What I find reprehensible is that the viewers of that show have long stated that one of the main draws is the opportunity to watch these kids grow up. And we have. And now we’re buying tabloid magazines with their pictures splashed over the covers. It’s nauseating. It’s hurtful and damaging and this sickening focus on a DIVORCE brings no value to anyone. And I think, honestly, that we can do better.
Sadly, as the show has recently garnered its highest ratings to date, I seem to be in the minority on that point. But maybe it’s just because the American public is under the impression that there’s no proper cable-reality substitute. SAY NO MORE. You’ve come to the right place. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have been avoiding canceling your J&KP8 season pass because of the void it will leave in your important TV schedule, I would like to introduce you to a very important person.
Anyone who has seen Ruby on the Style Network, a channel I didn’t even know I had a year ago, just saw that picture and clapped. For the rest of you, here’s a little introductory info on Style’s top-rated program.
Channel: Style Network
Location: Savannah, GA
Premise: Ruby, your sassy, super-sweet new best friend, was almost 500 lbs when she went to her doctor and faced a cold, hard truth- if something didn’t change soon, she was going to die. The news seemed to hit home for Ruby who decided the only thing to do was declare outright war on her predicament- in short order, she had a trainer, a nutritionist, her doctor and a therapist enlisted to help her conquer her weight loss once and for all.
What’s Happening Now: As we begin our second season, Ruby is mourning the loss of her father whom she says is the only man who has ever loved her unconditionally. Her grieving has proven a major setback for her diet, leaving her with no will to follow her current weight-loss program. There’s also her ex-boyfriend Denny (pretty much Mark Consuelo’s evil twin) lurking around, gifting her with too-small jeans and fruit bouquets (watch her best friends Georgia and Jeff try not to strangle him), and the continuing struggle of living in a world that, at times, seems far too small.
Why We Need Ruby: It’s a simple premise, like a slowed-down makeover montage in a romantic comedy. Except there are no quick fixes here. There’s no drastic surgery, no six hours at the gym like on The Biggest Loser, no frills, nothing. Ruby is not trying to change her life Hollywood-style and the fact that the weight loss is a long-term goal makes her smaller victories and setbacks so much more compelling. The word “inspirational” gets thrown around Ruby a lot but there’s a reason for that- her desire to change and to change the right way is just so foreign in entertainment, where we’ve become so impatient for the sexy, flashy results, the before-and-after picture, that we forget that it’s the journey that matters- (inspirational music swells) that it’s the journey where we really learn about human nature and what people can achieve when they set their minds and hearts to something.
What’s lovely too is that after a few episodes, you begin to get a sense that if we, the viewers, encourage Ruby to keep going, that we’re behind her and support her and are wishing her well, we could actually make a difference in seeing her realize her goal. With television, how often do you really have that kind of opportunity? Don’t you agree that something like that is infinitely more powerful and valuable than lining the pockets of a bunch of tabloid rags?