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Confessions of a Reality TV Junkie
By:Susan Ryder

It all started with MTV's Real World, which I joined midway through the first season over thirteen years ago.

There was something embarrassingly intriguing about watching the story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, and finding out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real...The Real World.

I likened my fascination with it to people slowing down on the freeway to "rubberneck" an accident - you know you shouldn't watch, but you can't help yourself. So after a segment on a NYC street where a young African American male yelled at a na´ve southern girl about racism, I was hooked.

Which led to further voyeurism with casts from LA to Chicago, San Francisco to Austin, Honolulu to New Orleans, Paris to Boston, another trip to New York, and cast reunion shows in between.

I worked hard to hide my habit. When people found out I actually KNEW who Puck, Montana, Genesis, Mike "the Miz," and Cameron were, I told them that I was watching the Real World merely as "research" because I worked with young people, and therefore should be "hip" to what they were watching. I don't think they bought it, particularly since I had no idea who or what a Shaggy or Fifty Cent were. But it was my story, and I stuck to it!

I did pride myself in that the fact that I only watched the first two seasons of MTV's Road Rules and then quit, cold turkey, and never watched another one. And over the years, while still hiding my Real World addiction from most people, I managed to feel a sense of moral superiority because I didn't succumb to the Millionaire Wedding show on FOX, like "other" people did. Or Temptation Island, for goshsakes! I did have SOME standards. Not many, but some!

But then a little show named Survivor came along, and that was my downfall.

I mean, deep down I didn't really WANT to see Richard prancing around naked on that island, and I really didn't need to see Michael go after that pig like he was acting out "Lord of the Flies." I didn't want to see an eleven mile trek through a rainforest that brought strong men to their knees and caused their eyes to roll back in their heads. And I didn't want to see Johnny Fairplay lie about his grandmother's death. But I couldn't tear my eyes away.

So I justified the monkey on my back by feeling redeemed when Lex went to the AIDS hospital in Africa, or when I learned about the culture of the native people of Palau. And I rationalized that I wasn't really wasting my time with mindless drivel - I was learning important survival skills should I ever be lost in the middle of Australia or shipwrecked on a deserted island! I was learning how to make a fire with a stick and rock, how survive on corn mush and coconuts, which all might come in handy some day. Survivor was a public service, by god!

But the problem was that Survivor led to Big Brother. Hanging head in shame. Yes, it's true, my Reality TV proclivity was so bad that not only did I live through Lip-Gloss Jamie and Chicken George in the first household, much to my shame I even watched the "worst than the first" second household.

And every season since. WHADDUP KAYSAR!

Of course, after watching Nicole, Will, and Monica pee on a waterbed while trying to become Head of House one week, I knew I had hit the Reality TV gutter and vowed never to watch again. But I fell off the wagon the next week when I was back watching them vote off Hardy, and I deluded myself into thinking I didn't have a problem because at least I hadn't signed up to pay to watch it 24 hours a day via the Internet - at least not until I got a faster internet connection...

They say the first step in rehabilitation is to admit you have a problem, and that you are powerless over it. But I don't know. Just because on Mondays I watch the "Real World/Road World Gauntlet," followed by "The Amazing Race" (yes, even the stupid Family version that thankfully just ended) on Tuesdays, "The Apprentice Martha Stewart" on Wednesdays, plus "Survivor" and "The Apprentice: Donald Trump" on Thursdays doesn't mean I have a problem. Does it? I mean, it's not like I watch Reality TV EVERY night, you know?

Oops, gotta go, the new season of American Idol is about to start!

When Susan Ryder

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