While you were probably out for at least a portion of this summer feeling the grind of warm sand squeeze between your toes, later letting cool evening air descend upon your sunburned face and then staring at starry skies with someone who likes all the same bands as you, I’ve been pretty much in the same spot I am right now—planted in front of my computer with a reality show on behind me.
Sure, you might have experienced a lot of interesting moments in real life, but I’ve been living vicariously through everyone from expert sharpshooters to antique pickers roaming the backroads of America.
So who really had more of an exciting summer?
Still, here are the five shows most responsible for helping keep me indoors this summer.
DESIGN STAR (HGTV)
For someone who’s never owned any property or plant, I watch an obscene amount of HGTV. Seriously. It’s like porn to me now. Instead of fantasizing about girls of questionable integrity who I’ll likely never encounter in real life, I fantasize about light fixtures and soft-closing cabinets for a house I’ll likely never afford. And although I know next to nothing about interior design, I’m captivated watching those who do in a battle for their own HGTV show. (On a side note, I’m convinced that in the very near future, everyone will be hired at every job via some sort of Survivor-style reality show.) This series does, however, hold my attention thanks to a massive crush on contestant Emily Henderson. When she skirted elimination this past Sunday, I was legitimately more excited than when the Steelers won the Super Bowl. And I’m a straight guy from Pittsburgh.
TOP SHOT (HISTORY CHANNEL)
Who knew there was such a varied range of different kinds of sharpshooters in the world? One of the things that’s most fascinating to me about these sorts of shows is that there are whole subcultures of people who spend all their time doing something like, say, shooting pistols way faster than anyone would ever need to in a real-world scenario not involving Jackie Chan. And those people have no real connection to the people who spend all their time shooting long-range rifles at targets further away than I’ve walked all year. Regardless, seeing which one can't shoot a bullet through a straw 200 feet away is crazy entertaining. Why? Because I've never shot a gun. And I've only had fleeting encounters with straws.
TODDLERS & TIARAS (TLC)
Look, let’s make this clear right out of the gate. This show is not really about the 5 year-old girls (and “extravagant” boys) who compete in Little Miss Sunshine-style beauty pageants. It’s about seeing which stage mom comes closest to embodying unadulterated, over-primped evil. I don’t really feel all that bad for the toddlers being subjected to ridiculous scrutinizing and spray tanning. Something's gotta keep em off the streets. I mean, I do feel bad, but 90 percent of them will one day realize that the entire endeavor is asinine and eventually revolt against their parents and go on to lead perfectly normal lives. I feel more badly for the dads who have to spend $1,200 on leopard-print gowns and all their Saturdays pretending they give a shit about any of this.
AMERICAN PICKERS (HISTORY CHANNEL)
Basically, two middle-aged guys who own an antique dealership go on road trips to find barns owned by the same people who would probably be on Hoarders if their eccentricities were regarded as self-destructive instead of endearing. The antique guys rummage through piles upon tetanus-riddled piles of junk in search of rusted oil cans that are apparently worth all the effort to flip and make $7 on. There’s probably something allegorical about discovering relative treasure amidst seas of trash, but I really just like seeing crazy-ass people do things I would never do.
JERSEY SHORE (MTV)
This one completely snuck up on me. I effortlessly resisted the first season of Jersey Shore minus the episode where Snooki got punched, which I TiVo’d and watched over and over again. (It saddens me that I can now easily tell you which one is Snooki and which one is J-Woww.) I never aspired to have the sort of life that these entitled jerks have—spending all day making yourself look toned and orange in order to make it easier to spend your nights getting stupid-drunk on mixed drinks and laid. But there’s something insanely comforting in the fact that this is actually what these people get paid to do now, and they still manage to make themselves completely miserable. And that’s the root of good reality TV: Watching other people fuck up in order to feel inherently better about yourself. See, Mark Burnett, I cracked the code. I’d be open to any job offers you have, but I’m sure you’d make me eat a live scorpion. (I’m not above that.)