Being a nobody never paid so well. From the Kardashian sisters' $11 million haul to The Situation's $3 million payday, The Daily Beast tallies the top earners in reality television.
I am really having trouble wrapping my mind around this. What have the Kardashians (who were already wealthy) ever do to warrant $11 million? Sure, it's invasive to allow cameras and crews to follow your every move and edit as they see fit. But what have these women actually done that makes them interesting to the public to the tune of millions of dollars? What kind of career will they have when their looks fade (even after prolonging their youthful appearance through the miracles of modern plastic surgery)? And why hasn't the public tired of them yet?
I'm afraid those are some of the mysteries of our age, and one I'm definitely not qualified to answer.
I love television - but I really hate the genre that's been dubbed "reality" (despite the unreality of a situation where people have put themselves at the mercy of a television production company, succumbing to staged situations, cameras following them around, etc.)
I've never watched an entire episode of Survivor, The Hills, The Real World, Big Brother (um, except in the UK when nothing else was on), The Great Race (which everyone tells me is one of the good reality series), The Biggest Loser, etc.
Maybe it's because I once worked in television production and identify with the WGA (most "reality" shows employ writers - but they don't give them the title or the associated pay and are not signatories with the Guild). Or maybe it's because I watch television to escape reality.
I prefer scripted comedies and dramas. Give me Mad Men, Chuck, Glee, Parenthood, The Good Wife, Big Love, Life Unexpected, House, Castle, Medium, Blue Bloods...
...The Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock, The Middle, Modern Family, and The Office. I even like NBC's politically incorrect comedy Outsourced (because it's funny - and gets most of its laughs out of the fish out of water Western characters).
I love the entertaining characters over at USA Network: Covert Affairs, Psych, Burn Notice, White Collar and Royal Pains.
I admire the craftsmanship and yes - the artistry that goes into creating programming like this.
But reality TV leaves me cold... for the most part.
I will admit to catching American Idol for a few seasons because that's what my husband and daughter wanted to watch. I think Dancing With the Stars is really entertaining, and would probably watch that if both House and Chuck weren't programmed against it on Mondays. And I have been known to spend hours watching Gordon Ramsay's various cooking shows on BBC America and Fox.
And for the last few weeks, I've been hooked on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills -- thanks to my friends, Tim and Debbie, who raved about it the last time we saw them. I guess you could call my friends connoisseurs of trash TV. Every year, they turn me on to one guilty reality pleasure - whether it's Jersey Shore (I caught most of the first season before I finally got disgusted with myself), Paris and Nicole's The Simple Life (how could I resist?) or the late Anna Nicole Smith's train wreck of a series (yes, that's how long I've known Tim and Deb).
"They live here and shop and eat at some of the same places we do," Debbie gushed. She still works in the entertainment industry, so she gets around the Westside a lot more than I do -- but in theory, I suppose I could relate to these Housewives.
What got me started was Debbie's description of the episode where one of the housewives threw a $60,000 birthday party for her four-year-old. She gave her little girl jewelry, because she figured four is the right age to own your first diamond... and then, she got upset because her husband upstaged her gift with something the little girl really wanted: a puppy.
We've got Bravo on demand, and I was able to catch up on the series on one Sunday afternoon... and have been hooked ever since.
I hate myself for it.
But I can't wait to see what they're up to tonight.
I made it back to LA last week with a little souvenir from La Jolla: a nasty cold; my first one of the winter.
I always thought life would get easier as I aged; that at least, I would be able to handle the unexpected with a little more panache. That has not been the case. I suffer colds badly.
And it hasn't helped that in-between my fever-induced chills, I was having hot flashes.
I am sure some of my friends are chuckling at my confession. I'm afraid I've been somewhat smug about the fact that I made it to the ripe old age of 54 without suffering many of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. I even expected that this was something I might actually escape.
No such luck. For the last couple of weeks, I've had episodes of intense heat with alarming frequency. Outside temperature is no longer something I can gauge without actually looking at some kind of gauge. While in La Jolla, I was kicking myself for packing only winter clothes. I now need to always wear layers, because at any given moment I'm going to want to remove a few.
And when I'm not feeling horrendously hot, I'm feeling uncomfortably cold, which was exacerbated by last week's fever.
If only I can figure out a way to control the hot flashes. Megan is on half-days for finals this week, so I took her out to lunch and we were seated right under an air conditioning vent. I was praying for one of my episodes. I eventually had one -- but not until we were driving away. It's not so bad when I'm in the car, because I can turn the air conditioning on full blast and point the vents right at my face...
...but it's less convenient when I have a passenger in the car. Megan was pretty unhappy about it.
I was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the shadow of the entertainment industry, so I suppose it's no wonder that I ended up working in TV and radio when I finished college.The fact it, I love television. I love watching it, I love reading about it and for a while, I loved being a part of the process of making it.
And even though those years are long gone now, I am still a huge fan and never pass up an opportunity to peek at the inner sanctum of a production.
So of course, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the set of NBC's Thursday night comedy, "Community." NBC on Thursday is still "Must See TV" in our household, and my daughter and I get a kick out of the goofy plot twists and absurd situations faced by the lovable study group at Greendale Community College -- which consists of one of the funniest casts on television, including Joel McHale, Ken Jeong, John Oliver, and Alison Brie, who all generously took some time off from shooting to chat with a group of visiting "mommy bloggers":
After our bloggy press conference on the set, we were treated to a VIP luncheon with Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays the seemingly innocent Shirley. Yvette is one of the most recognizable character actresses in Hollywood (my daughter instructed me to ask her what it was like working on Nickelodeon's "Drake and Josh"). She asked us more questions than we asked her; she seemed genuinely interested to learn about our blogs and our families. This is not my usual experience with Hollywood actresses.
By the way - I've seen a preview of tonight's special animated Christmas episode, and it's terrific: a wry homage to the clay animation classics of our youth (think "Rudolph") -- but very true to the Community spirit. And FUNNY.
And be sure to watch for the song near the end, which gives Yvette Nicole Brown a chance to belt out a line. I had not known that she began her career as a singer, and was even signed to Motown for a while. The lady has pipes, and I hope the producers give her more chances to show them off.
DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation for writing this post.
I left La Jolla bright and early yesterday morning (6 AM), determined to get home and get cracking on the two assignments I have to write for AskPatty.com.
But I also had another task at hand: Planning the weekly radio show I've been working on with the other MOMocrats. We relaunched it last month, following the dismal results of the midterm elections, and it's been kind of a pet project of mine -- maybe because it takes me back to my first job out of college, when I was producing a real broadcast radio show for syndicators Drake-Chenault... a time when I was young and felt like I was smart and competent and capable of taking on the world.
The news on Monday that Elizabeth Edwards was no longer being treated for her cancer hit all the MOMocrats very hard. The site originated after Elizabeth spoke at the 2007 BlogHer conference; the founding MOMocrats had met her and kept up a correspondence with her. She really was, in the words of Glennia Campbell, "the first MOMocrat." And I felt very strongly that we needed to talk about her this week on the radio show, and the fact that despite the narcissist John Edwards turned out to be, his message of two Americas is still relevant -- and still needs to be addressed.
And then came the sad news that Elizabeth was gone.
When I discovered that Stefania Pomponi Butler and Glennia Campbell (and my wonderful friend Cynematic) could be available yesterday afternoon, I slapped together a show and an email newsletter announcing it, and we were on the air at 4:30. And while I pooh-poohed everyone who gave me kudos over making it happen so quickly, when I think back on it today, I'm proud of myself. (That is, as long as I don't listen to myself on the show. I am inarticulate and don't think quickly on my feet. I'm way better working behind the scenes and think the show will be better when we can find someone else to act as weekly host.)
I worry a lot about my financial future. I think about re-entering the job force, and every time I try to update my resume, I am at a loss when I try to figure out what I can do. I forgot that I actually do have some experience with this stuff and it felt good yesterday to put it to good use.
Today's news was further reminder. Thirty years ago today, I was writing a radio script and was frustrated with the staff at Geffen Records, because they would not answer any of the simple questions I had asked them about John Lennon and Yoko Ono, whose album "Double Fantasy" was moving up the charts.
"We don't bother them," they told me.
The news that night was devastating. It reminded me of the two Kennedy assassinations (yes, I was alive for those, too) in that everyone knew exactly where they were when they heard the news. And the feeling of grief for me was worse, because Lennon and his music had been a huge part of my life since I was a 7-year-old girl watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964. I did not know him but the connection felt so intimate, because his music was a part of me (and of everyone in my generation).
At the very same time, a co-worker of mine was secretly moonlighting for RKO Radio... sitting in the Dakota, where John Lennon was giving what turned out to be his final interview. The shock of his death that night was redoubled the next morning when my boss watched our co-worker's guest spot on the Today Show. (We had both noticed that she had called in sick the previous day -- but who could blame her that particular opportunity?)
And so today, the news is full of remembrances of both Elizabeth Edwards and John Lennon. You may hear that Rolling Stone is publishing a "newly discovered" "final interview" with John, conducted three days before his murder. That's not entirely true, as the last interview he gave was on the day he was to die, with radio personality Dave Sholin (assisted by my old co-worker, Laurie Kaye).
And I am reminded that I'm still capable of doing a few things.