Spoiler alert: Reality TV isn’t real. Big surprise!
The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) used to have a business show called Venture. I found it fascinating. And I have as much interest in business as I do in Jai Alai (I’ve never watched Jai Alai).
Each episode featured several stories, mini documentaries about entrepreneurs as they tried to bring their idea, product or dream to market. It was fascinating. An engaging story, a challenge, an adventure.
That show is gone. Now we have Shark Tank, Dragon’s Den, and other scary animal names, where hopeful entrepreneurs with big dreams compete to convince a panel of wealthy personalities to invest. I find the series fascinating. But agitating. A downer. I wasn’t sure why. Is it because so many of the dreams and ideas are shot to pieces by the investors?
There was the pizza box that folded, origami style, into a dozen different variations, for serving slices, to a container to store leftover pizza. It was amazing. No takers. I have to say that leftover pizza is not something I’ve ever seen in my house. In fact, I’ve actively made sure that there was never any left over…
Anyway, it seems like very few of the ‘wannabe’ business owners get any support. Or if they do, they really compromise their share. The rest are blown out of the water.
When I mentioned the show to a person I know who has done that type of investing, ‘angel investing’ is the term he used, he shook his head dismissively. He’d seen the show. And he said the same thing my father said whenever I’d watch a war movie, “It’s not like that.”
I haven’t done a lot of angel investing, but people I know with experience aren’t tearing people down if they don’t think the idea is viable. They offer suggestions and some guidance. They want them to succeed. And you don’t demolish people because no one, even the smartest investors, knows anything for absolute sure.
“Angel Investors, good ones, offer advice. But they aren’t cruel or mocking” he says.
That’s what I hate about the show. It’s sold as ‘Reality TV’ and yet I learn it’s nothing like reality. It’s fine that Law & Order always ends with a trial, whereas almost all criminal cases end with someone cutting a deal. That’s ‘Reality TV’.
I’m obviously not the first person to point out that ‘Reality TV’ has about as much to do with reality as, say, The Red Green Show. (Now that was quality television.)
But what puts me off is that Reality TV always involves a competition. No wonder there are no more great science shows. How do you have a competition between Black Holes in Space and Volcanoes?
Five or six years ago, I was actively selling TV show ideas. Or trying to sell them. Some really great ideas. Network executives and production companies thought they were great. But they made it clear that the ideas would never fly.
‘Can you make it into a competition?’
I wanted to do a documentary about the Sherman Tank, the main battle tank of the American, Canadian, and British armies in WW-2. The tank my father took in to combat against Nazi tanks in Italy. The message of the show was that it was a terrible tank design… Inadequate… Unsafe… And dreadfully easy to defeat.
When I outlined the idea and the approach I would take, it was quite emotional. When I finished my pitch, there was a pause and then…
‘What if you had it race against another tank? That might make it saleable.’
I listened for a while, and then left saying I’d think about it. I didn’t think about it.
I’ve written about Reality TV in the past, but with each passing year I’m less interested in television because everything is a competition. And in my experience, in the television industry, in making comedy, and now in making videos, books, and audios about ADHD, is that most people are not competing. It’s not dog-eat-dog. It’s not about winners and losers.
We’ve found that doctors and authors are generous with their time and knowledge. They are eager to share what they know, whether they have a book to promote or not. They are fans of each other. Offering their support and advice. Collaborating. Our videos are certainly proof of that.
Maybe TV is reflecting the wider world. Is there a sense that the world is in trouble and we will have to compete for increasingly scarce resources? I think there is, but I also think that it’s not the truth. Just a fear that is being fed by almost every movie and TV show going—from Game of Thrones and Walking Dead, to the dozen or so end of the world, post apocalyptic films that hit the big screen every summer.
The term block-buster has come to mean office blocks and apartment blocks being blown to smithereens.
Or maybe TV is reflecting the economy, where even the top 1% are falling behind and it is only the 1% of the 1% who are holding their own, or getting wealthier.
But in movies there’s an explosion and people run away screaming.
In real life people rush to see how they can help.
On television someone is the weakest… All the aspects of survival of the fittest and Darwinian dog-eat-dog competition. The fact that Darwin meant ‘fittest’ in terms of being able to ‘fit in to the world’ is lost on most people. They assume it’s a winner take all. But if there’s only one species that wins, and it’s us… Anyway, that’s a separate concern and I don’t have answers.
The point is that while movies and TV have never been about ‘real-life’, they were not pretending to be ‘reality.’
Forget the competition. In society and in nature it’s about cycles, connections, the ‘circle of life’. Not the ‘pyramid of power’. Or the ‘100-yard dash of life’.
While seeing budding entrepreneurs have their dreams demolished makes riveting TV, as does footage of airline crashes and tsunamis, in real life what matters to all of us is when dreams are accomplished.
I’d rather be part of that reality. And hopefully we’re a part of making that happen for you.
What I’m constantly being reminded of as we move forward with TotallyADD and all the new stuff we have coming, is the amount of collaboration, the number of people who are involved, who contribute, who want to be part of it and add to it and make it all work. You cannot believe how inspiring this is.
Again and again I am reminded that there is no self-made successes. Yes, the idea of the documentary was mine. ADD & Loving It?! and TotallyADD happened, through the contributions of scores of people.
Which sounds like a tangent from ‘reality TV’, but it’s not.
My concern is that TV presents a distorted image of the world, but it’s so distorted, we don’t even see that it is any more. Worse, TV can be like a drug to people with ADD. It holds us. Hypnotizes us. Uses up years of our lives, filling the hours with noise and fury and stimulation to arouse our desires, our sense of outrage, and a false feeling of community. And more and more, fills us with a vision of a world that is constant struggle, and only the very, very best succeed.
With ADHD you tend to have the odd setback or failure. (Insert roars of laughter here.) Things don’t always go as planned. For example, my plan to have things well planned. We are already hard enough on ourselves when things don’t go as we hoped. It’s already too easy to fall down and never get up again.
Cause as they say, “Opportunity only knocks once.” Right?
In my experience you always have more chances. Opportunity will knock again. Sometimes, looking back, I can see it was knocking continuously for years and I didn’t hear it.” Trust me, we get new chances, and when things don’t work out, sometimes it’s good, it wasn’t meant to be. Remember your first crush? Or that job you got fired from? Wish you still worked there?
All I’d suggest for now is that there is little evidence that watching a lot of television is good for you, and considerable evidence it actually lowers your happiness and leaves you feeling more anxious. You can choose to do whatever you like with that information.
For a start, how do you feel after watching the news for 30 minutes? Compared to say, sitting in a park or café watching people pass by for the same length of time?
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