February 27, 2003
Reality Overload

I fell asleep ten minutes into Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein last night.

This was by no means a reflection of apathy or disinterest on my part: I'm as emotionally invested in world events these days as the next guy. It was more like a "reflection" of my desperate need for eight solid hours of sleep. Between getting up forty minutes early to wrestle with the new contact lenses, every single morning this week -- and then staying up two or three or seven hours past my bedtime every single night -- I have felt myself heading into serious Sleep Deprivation Territory. (Pretty soon I'm going to start calling the Tots by each others' names and dozing off in the middle of Saturday Night Yahtzee.) So I purposely took a big healthy slug of knock-'em-out cold medicine, midway through the evening last night, and by 9 p.m. I was already drooling into my pillow. The last thing I remember, just before I floated away on the big fluffy cloud of Phenylpropanolamine Hydrochloride and Chlorphenamine (Chlorpheniramine) Maleate, was hearing Dan Rather asking Saddam how many cosmetic facial surgeries he's had.

"Two," said the Iraqi dictator, through his interpreter. "But only on my nose, and only so I could hit the high notes better."

I'll catch the rest of the interview tomorrow on 'Entertainment Tonight,' I told myself, as I slid down the chute into unconciousness. And then I was out like the proverbial dim bulb.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

My thirst for pseudo-reality TV may have finally been slaked.

I'm especially burned out on the pseudo-romance variety of pseudo-reality TV. When Trista inexplicably chose the maudlin, mealy-mouthed Ryan to be her lifemate/soulmate/Bad Poet Laureate a couple of weeks ago, instead of going for Charlie, who was clearly the better man in 99.997% of the ways that count (except for the part about not actually being in love with her), I turned to David in disgust and said, "That's it. I've had enough."

And I pointed the remote at the TV and clicked the *Off* button.

No more contrived scenarios. No more manipulative editing or phony-baloney 'selection processes.' No more watching happy weeping couples vowing eternal love beneath a blizzard of confetti and rose petals ... only to tune in to the inevitable "Aftermath" show, the following week, just in time to see them throwing plates of spaghetti at each other.

In short: no more Plug-and-Play romance for this reality TV addict. She's had her fill.

I'm chalking it up to overload. For a brief period, earlier this month, I was gorging on no less than five reality shows within the same week: "Joe Millionaire" on Monday night, "American Idol" on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, "The Bachelorette" (also on Wednesday night, but following "American Idol" so there was no annoying overlap), and "Survivor: Amazon" on Thursday night. (And no, I don't watch any of the other reality shows, on any of the other networks. I generally prefer the goal to either be romance or personal glory ... not vomiting or "hotness" or the resuscitation of some has-been/quasi-celebrity's career.) At first I'll admit that it was sort of cool and exciting and fun, having all of this overlapping made-for-TV noise and nonsense going on, all at once. But almost immediately I started to feel overload ... like a wall socket with one too many electrical plugs stuck into it.

Trista choosing Ryan was the frayed Mixmaster cord that shorted out the entire works, as far as I was concerned.

"I'm not going to watch this stuff anymore," I harrumphed to David, as we watched Charlie riding away in the back of the limousine, alone. I don't think he believed me. 

"You're just cranky because YOU didn't get to pick the winner," he said, and there is probably more than a molecule of truth to that. 

But so far I've stuck to my guns. Or at least, I've stuck to 99.997% of my guns. I'll admit that I'm still watching "Survivor: Amazon." I'm giving it a couple of weeks to either become too interesting or too awful to ignore. (And then I'll end up watching it all the way through to the end REGARDLESS ... but at least I will have pretended to think about it.) But I did manage to quit "American Idol 2" cold turkey. There was a distressing sameness to AI2, this time around, that I found hard to stomach. How many times can you hear "Kiss From A Rose" without wanting to put a bicycle pump through your television screen? I ask you? And as for the pseudo-romance stuff, I blew off both the "Millionaire" and the "Bachelorette" aftermath shows without so much as a backward glance. (Mainly because I was terrified that Ryan might attempt to spout some more of his icky poetry ... or Evan might attempt to walk and chew gum at the same time.) I'm even avoiding the after-the-aftermath specials: frankly, I have zero interest in hearing why Aaron-and-Helene/Alex-and-Amanda/Cissy-and-Brent/Greg-and-Marcia didn't work out. And when "The Bachelor" returns in a few weeks -- as it will, as inevitably and inexorably as the Honey BBQ Wings return to KFC every Memorial Day weekend -- I might actually try to find something else to do with my Wednesday nights. 

Like reading. Or calling The Tots. Or talking to David. Or working on my poor, miserable, neglected little website.

Unless, of course, they decide to make CHARLIE the new Bachelor. Then you won't see hide nor hair of me for another eleven weeks.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

In the meantime, I suppose it's just as well that I missed the Dan Rather interview last night.

I needed the sleep, for one thing. I've felt about a bazillion times better today than I've felt all week: I actually managed to get through a whole day without snapping at co-workers or barking at clients or sneaking into the Dirt Company kitchen and mainlining caffeine at 3:00 in the afternoon. For another thing, if I really want to know how the interview went -- and I probably do -- I can always turn on the news/look at the front page of the Oakland Tribune/dial up Yahoo! News and get a complete, blow-by-blow transcript of the entire conversation.

Or I can just wait another week and catch the "Saddam Hussein Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See" special on FOX.

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