TV Talk: American Ninja Warrior

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OK, let’s all acknowledge that American Ninja Warrior isn’t the kind of show I usually write about. Nope, most of the time, it’s high-concept shows with intricate plotting, complex characters and long, twisty arcs.

This is not that kind of show.

Well, it does have long, twisty arcs, but the contestants are supposed to slide across them on a bar. Or cling to them upside down with their fingertips. Or hurl themselves toward them with a trampoline.

You know. The normal day-to-day.

I’d never actually watched American Ninja Warrior (it really needs a catchy acronym, but ANW sounds like a window-makers’ professional organization) until this week, when, setting my DVR, it appeared on my screen. I couldn’t look way.

Couldn’t. Look. Away.

For anyone who hasn’t seen this spectacle it’s a combination of parkour and your worst gym class nightmares, where contestants resembling Greek gods attempt to complete an obstacle course. Like most competition reality shows, there are the heartwarming profiles to get you rooting for them, often right before they go splat into the pool. Or splat into the padding.

There are many splats.

Most of the time, they pop up smiling, which is reassuring. Meanwhile, the announcers narrate in the background, lending the feel of a sporting event.

And, of course, despite having never successfully completing a pull-up in my entire life, I am absolutely convinced that I, too, could climb up a beam and down again by hanging on to a hoop I use to “hop” over pegs, using only my upper body.

Me in my head.

Me in real life. (Picture from http://susan-swiderski.blogspot.com/, Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade).

I mean there has to be a workout video for that, right?

Maybe it’s just human nature to be fascinated by the physical feats of our fellow humans. Maybe it’s reveling in the fantasy, if only for the 2-3 minutes it takes the finishers to run the course, that we, too, could glide over a collection of rotating poles as gracefully as skipping on the beach.

Assuming we could skip gracefully on the beach.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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‘Real Housewives of Melbourne’ Back to Beginnings

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There is a certain magic to the first season of a Real Housewives show. And when I say “first,” I don’t mean a franchise, but rather the first one ever to grace the airwaves. Here in the U.S., it was “Real Housewives of Orange County.” In that first season, the women had no idea what the show would look like, how they would come off, how others would react to what they said. There was a certain almost innocence to it, as the cast said things that they thought would be amusing without a single consideration of the after effects.

Of course those days are long gone.

Unless you manage to catch the first season of the “Real Housewives of Melbourne,” that is. It. Was. Fantastic.

As the first Housewives franchise in Australia, it’s pretty clear these women had little idea what to expect. Unlike new Housewives here, they probably didn’t have the ability to talk to veterans beforehand, not the way the women can now. It was like watching the wheel be invented all over again.

Glorious.

What is so wonderful and so fleeting is the chance to watch self-awareness bloom. Not through the regular season, of course, since at that time, they’re still living it, and it’s amazing to watch. When you get to the reunion, you can see the beginnings of the transformation, because by then, these women have had an entire season to see what the rest of the world sees.

And there goes the innocence. Yes, by season 2, much weight has been lost, makeup notched up, and the uniform-issued false eyelashes applied. More structured facades have been built, with hearty patches over the bits that shone too raw the first go around.

They are entertainers, set to entertain. “Being themselves” is no longer the goal. Nope, now it’s the “storylines” and the screen time. Now they are famous people who feel they’ve earned their fame.

Granted, the more experienced Housewives here still have their moments, those cracks in the armor, the times when, in trying to be clever, they expose a part of themselves that they’d rather hide. But it’s not the same show as it was when they were all just giddy with the idea of being themselves on TV.

Now, for example, the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” is packed to the maximum FDA-approved Botox dose with professional actors. Not just aspiring actors. Professional ones. It’s impossible to know if Lisa Rinna’s lunging, wine-throwing, glass-shattering outburst in defense of her husband Harry Hamlin was emotion or great use of her soap opera days.

She was the iconic incarnation of Billie on “Days of Our Lives,” after all. RHOBH Cast-mate Eileen Davidson won an Emmy for her soap opera efforts. We already know there’s not a ton of reality in reality television, how do we know we haven’t shifted to scripted drama?

Does it matter? Well, yes and no. Until RHOM came along, I was still entertained, but had forgotten completely what drew me to the Housewives in the first place. It’s a reality TV version of the garden of Eden, before the apple of knowledge, a disappearing moment before the cast sees themselves as the world sees them and the gaming begins.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 

 

 

 

Learn to Write from Reality TV

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Yes. I’m writing about reality TV. No, I’m not doing it ironically. I admit it, there is some “reality” television I honestly enjoy, and most of it involves “housewives” who are hurling things at one another, whether insults or beverages.

There is probably not one person left on the planet who thinks everything that happens on reality television is real. Well, maybe one, but Great Aunt Tillimeade is getting on in years and why deprive her of her one joy in life? (Disclaimer: Great Aunt Tillimeade, like many of the “storylines” on reality shows, is entirely fictional, poor dear). Like everything in media, reality television has its writers.

Real reality is boring. Imagine a reality show about my life. There would be endless footage of me staring at the cursor on the screen, giving up, turning on the television, and going back to the cursor. Riveting stuff.

That’s why those shows don’t do that. Instead they take what is most compelling, most interesting, most shocking, and put it together in a way that feels like a story. And it’s an excellent tip when you’re writing.

It’s easy when you are creating a world out of nothing to think that everything about that world and what happens in it is fascinating. Much in the way that the stars of reality TV feel that they are fascinating enough to justify their camera-toting escorts.

The reason the shows engage viewers is that they edit out the sameness of life, the day-to-day bits. Everything that isn’t relevant to tell the story.

See where I’m going with this?

When you write, no one wants to see the grocery shopping, unless the store is being robbed and your character is held hostage. If it’s really only to get the milk, and nothing relating to the larger story happens — even at a character level — aside from getting the milk, it won’t be all that interesting.

Show what you need to show to tell the story. That’s what keeps reality viewers coming back for more, and will always hook a reader.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 

Peek Inside a Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating

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For at least a season or so of “Real Housewives of New York,” we’ve heard hyper-cool “housewife” Carole Radziwill talking about her novel. Well, here it is. Unlike most things that happen on reality shows (huge wink), this one’s actually real.


The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating: A Novel by Carole Radziwill. Amazon for $9.99. Claire Byrne is a quirky and glamorous 34-year-old Manhattanite and the wife of a famous, slightly older man. Her husband, Charlie, is a renowned sexologist and writer. Equal parts Alfred Kinsey and Warren Beatty, Charlie is pompous yet charming, supportive yet unfaithful; he’s a firm believer that sex and love can’t coexist for long, and he does little to hide his affairs. Claire’s life with Charlie is an always interesting if not deeply devoted one, until Charlie is struck dead one day on the sidewalk by a falling sculpture … a Giacometti, no less!

Once a promising young writer, Claire had buried her ambitions to make room for Charlie’s. After his death, she must reinvent herself. Over the course of a year, she sees a shrink (or two), visits an oracle, hires a “botanomanist,” enjoys an erotic interlude (or ten), eats too little, drinks too much, dates a hockey player, dates a billionaire, dates an actor (not any actor either, but the handsome movie star every woman in the world fantasizes about dating). As she grieves for Charlie and searches for herself, she comes to realize that she has an opportunity to find something bigger than she had before—maybe even, possibly, love.