June 19, 2012

Today's newsletter is for the guys. You ladies may read it if you wish but you may get offended. I don't really know so I'm taking a chance here. If I were to give this article a title it might be called A Man’s Field Guide To Reality TV.

Most nights, my wife and I retreat to our bedroom at different times. I'm usually working on these Castle Bisset pages when she goes to bed so she usually watches TV for an hour before falling asleep. Because there’s not much on at that hour, I usually just hand the remote control to my wife and listen.

Like most men, I don’t watch TV to see reality. I get more than enough reality in my daily life. I suppose the idea of reality TV is to make you feel better about yourself, but it just makes me sad for the human race. And my wife flips channels, endlessly, from reality show to reality show, hitting the channel button every time a commercial comes on. What we get, then, is a smattering of each show, not enough to follow anything, just enough to leave me feeling queasy and just a little bit unsettled.

But I also realized that I have now soaked up so much information, by osmosis, that I’m something of an expert on women’s reality TV. So I thought I’d do a field guide of the major shows women watch so that other husbands can at least talk knowledgeably with their wives when the subject comes up.

The most important ones to know about are the “Housewives” shows. There seems to be a version for every major metropolitan area, but it’s not really important that you know which one you’re watching. Each version features five or six women who are either rich or pretending to be rich. They all have short dresses and long hair. They spend all day getting dolled up, then get together for cocktails and to tell each other how much they hate each other. From the huge glasses of wine they’re always gesturing with, my guess is they’re drunk. Most of the housewives have husbands. You can see them in the back of the scene looking desperately confused. Every once in while, you expect one of the men to grab a Sharpie and a notepad and hold up a sign that reads, “HELP!”

Next up, you have to be able to recognize the Kardashians. The dark-haired women in this family are all famous but for no particular reason at all. They simple wander about, trying on clothes, sipping stuff out of coffee cups and whining in high-pitched but strangely gravelly voices. No one knows what, exactly, they’re unhappy about, as they don’t really enunciate very well. I think there are three sisters. The only other thing you need to do is watch for that pretty older woman who appears on screen every once in a while. That used to be Olympian Bruce Jenner.

There’s a show called “Sister Wives” about a dude who has four wives. I try not to even look up at the TV during that one. It makes me nervous. As a man, you probably don’t want to comment on this one at all. If you say that situation sounds like a nightmare, you’re telling your wife that marriage is too complicated as it is, and you’re most likely going to get the silent treatment for some time. If you show any interest in this show, you’re telling your wife polygamy sounds like a neat idea, and that means, to be frank, that you’re too stupid to live your own life.

There’s a show called “Dance Moms,” where pre-teen girls seem to be training to be Circe du Soleil performers while their mothers shriek at each other. Sometimes it’s hard to follow, but the moms all hate the dance coach, and the dance coach seems to hate life. The girls who do the dancing often stand around watching all this fighting, and every once in a while, if you’re a lip reader, you can see one of them mouth “I am so not having children when I grow up!”

There’s also a stupid show called “Toddlers and Tiaras.” This show features crazy adult women who dress up their toddler daughters to look like tiny Las Vegas strippers, and then they all gather at a Holiday Inn on a highway off ramp and have a contest to see which little girl can give the most frightening grimace. The only good thing about this show is that when these poor little girls grow up to be adults, and their crazy mothers shriek, “Tell me! TELL ME! Was I such a bad mother?” the girls can just throw a tape in the VCR, hit “play” and say, “Well, yes, actually, you were!”

Now, armed with this guide, you husbands can relate to your wives about something near and dear to their hearts. When “Sister Wives” comes up, though, just nod and keep your mouth shut.

Trust me on this one.