Sometimes you just can’t fake it

The end of summer is almost here and the fall semester is right around the corner. This is normally about the time where students sigh and mourn another summer gone by, but I’m feeling pretty good. I have registered for classes, ordered books, organized files, and have even started discussions with a fellow student on a possible conference paper collaboration (our topic is pretty cool, by the way).

I have spent my remaining days of freedom catching up on shows I’ve missed, e.g. Top Chef, and making time to enjoy a flick or two, most recently The Other Guys. With so few days to go, I have been trying to make my time count; however, I must admit to a bit of channel surfing recently. Channel surfing can sometimes yield hidden or forgotten treasures (I always love stumbling upon a showing of The Goonies), but sadly this was not the case on this occasion. I happened to come across a new reality show called DC Cupcakes, which documents the tales of a Georgetown bakery. There are tons of food shows, and specifically bakery shows, on the air which does not make this show unique; however, I was pleased to see that DC was being represented in the genre…or rather, pleased until I watched the show.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the sisters who own the bakery are rather sweet and I don’t doubt that the cupcakes are scrumptious. The producers, on the other hand, are leaving much to be desired.

The episode I saw, for example, included a scene where the head baker asked one of the bakery employees to watch a pot of chocolate ganache. Her only job was to stir the pot so the chocolate wouldn’t burn and to not leave it unattended.

Nothing too exciting yet, right?

Well, with the camera in front of her (of course) she walks away from the pot of heating chocolate to answer a text from a cute customer she met earlier (another planted conflict no doubt), and the ganache bursts into flames. Blah, blah, yada, yada, she gets reprimanded, the fire is put out, and life goes on.

So, there really was nothing at stake here – An important part of (even scripted) shows is that conflict is created when two parties have something at stake. A pot of ganache was burned. Big deal. After the initial “slap on the hand,” everyone goes about their day, leaving the audience to wonder, “What was even the point of that scene?”

So, was this fabricated? Probably so. Would this show be better if it weren’t plagued by the deceptions of scripted reality television? I’m starting to wonder. And if this show is scripted…they need better writers.

At this point, we are all aware that most of “reality” television is not really reality at all (well, only some of us are aware, but that’s a different conversation). Many shows are scripted and the conflicts are pre-planned and planted, but we all still love them anyway.

So, the question is, why? Why do we still watch reality television if we know we’re being played?

Well, there are a couple different answers. The most common being that most people are completely unaware that reality television is anything but reality. But, for those of us who are in the know, we continue to watch because the shows are well produced. Storylines are, for the most part, entertaining and the acting is believable. Unfortunately, DC Cupcakes is lacking on both accounts.

They are obviously a bakery that is dedicated to their business and they behave as most business environments do, which does not make for exciting television. This forces producers to produce conflict through fabricated storylines and when not done well it is disastrous. Some people’s lives just aren’t that interesting to watch, but it doesn’t help to create fake (almost dramatic) moments to compensate. Maybe if the producers just let the sisters and employees be who they really are, the viewers could at least connect on a human level…even if nothing is going on.

P.s. After writing this entry, I was curious so I googled. Check out these other blog posts about DC Cupcakes. Looks like I’m not alone!

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