It’s hard to call yourself a hardcore fan of television nowadays, what with the multitudes of channels and the dozens upon dozens of shows out there. Normally I stick with the scripted programs and shun pretty much anything that considers itself a “reality” TV show. But if you wake up early on a Saturday morning and flip on the tube you’ll find nothing but reruns of every cable channel’s stable of reality shows.
This past Saturday was one such morning. As I flipped through the various networks I found myself inexplicably entranced by a show on Animal Planet called Pit Boss XL. Having never even heard of the show before, I was utterly confused by what I was seeing, and it took me about twenty-minuets to fully understand the basic premise of the show. After it finally sunk in I came to a conclusion that I, an avid fan of television, never wanted to admit: TV sucks.
After reading the show’s title on the onscreen guide I figured the show was about the owner of a barbecue joint in St. Louis and the various hardships one experiences when they choose to make ribs for the duration of their time on earth. So you can imagine the horror I felt when I saw a number of dogs being led in to the shop. “No!” I yelled in my head, “you can get ribs from pigs! There’s a better way!”
This horror quickly subsided as I was introduced to not another horror, but rather, a sight that made me question the very fabric of reality. Having just woken up, I felt as though I was still asleep and experiencing a dream filled with bizarre imagery: a midget – no, a team of midgets, all of which were rehabilitating and training rescued pit bulls. If it were a dream than it would have been my subconscious’ way of telling me I have a pit bull fetish and I feel insecure about being of below average height. And that I was probably gay, because that’s what all pit bull and midget dreams are trying to tell you. But this wasn’t a dream. This was a real show on Animal Planet. It was a real show on Animal Planet about midget dog walkers, which, by the way, is also the most disconcertingly specific sexual fetish on record.
Having attained a somewhat firm grasp on what I was watching, I felt the need to discover a little bit more to flesh out the picture. I hit the Guide button on my remote and read the description of the episode. The first words I read were: “Three little people dress like crawfish.” Not only was I dreaming, but I was at the peak of my LSD trip, apparently. As I watched the episode I saw no anthropomorphic crawfish walking about jauntily. At this point I began to wonder if the episode I was watching and the description for the episode I was watching originated from two different planes of existence. These two planes of existence were both clearly very silly points on the astral plane, but each had a different interpretation of silly. One embraced the mundane silliness of midgets dealing with pit bulls, while the other took a more absurdist path, dressing the midgets as crawfish.
Again, though, I was proven wrong. This was very real, and it was happening in my reality. This sunk in when the two astral planes collided and became one: there were midgets dressed as crawfish on my TV screen. You don’t see midgets dressed as crawfish very often. If you walked up to me and asked what context, if any, midgets dressed as crawfish would fit in to, I would tell you it would be an out-of-context entry on the To Do list of a Las Vegas bachelor party. I would also tell you that “Midgets dressed as Crawfish” was wedged between “47) The Buttered Fist of a Boxer,” and “49) Halibut Tits.”
I began to accept this as my reality, and I even began to watch the show without fearing a pan-astral panic attack.
In the episode, one of the cast members dressed like a crawfish did not want to be dressed like a crawfish. One of the other cast members mentioned how they all once dressed as Oompa Loompas in an attempt to promote their pit bull rescuing company. For some little people there’s a line in the sand that they will not cross, and that line is a crawfish – a crawfish with half its body sticking out of a large metal pot. This anti-crawfish guy had his reasons for not wanting to dress like a crawfish. He felt it was demeaning it and objectifying. Yet, he was perfectly fine with having a camera crew follow him and his short pals around all the time. If you’re a midget or a little person or whatever it is you want to be called, and you have a reality TV camera crew following you, documenting your exploits, they’re not following you because you’re a deeply fascinating individual that has infinite wisdom to impart upon the viewer. That would imply the producers of the show had souls. If you’re a midget with a reality TV crew in tow, that camera crew is following you because the core conceit of a midget trying to do anything non-midgets do is inherently hysterical to non-midgets. Sure, the show may have been sold to you under the pretense of showing the world that little people can contribute to the world in the same way non-little people do, but that’s horse shit. The show is only going to be watched by people that see it and think: “Look at those little legs kick about furiously like a wind-up toy!”
By this point I no longer believed I was looking through a window in to another reality. I knew I was right here with the rest of you. Suddenly everything I was seeing got very sad. Is this really what we’ve come to? The exciting lives of midgets gallivanting with pit bulls?
To cheer myself up I wondered if all the shots of the cast members working in their respective offices were filmed by a crew of little people, because there wasn’t a single shot that was more than a few feet off the ground. I then imagined what it would look like to walk in on a number of little people working in an office made up of proportionately sized desks as they were being filmed by non-midgets. I realized it would look like parents filming their children play office behind a brightly colored Play Skool-branded plastic desks, yelling stuff like “I need more documents and stock projections!” in to their plastic bananas that strayed a bit too far from the Play Skool kitchen set.
That made me smile. But then I got sad again. This was it. This was the pit television had reached. It may have taken me a while to realize it, but this past Saturday morning it finally hit me –this was our sad reality: For every one Mad Men or Breaking Bad, for every one 30 Rock and Community, there are 10 shows about midgets dressed as crawfish…and somehow they aren’t good.