Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Ephesians 5:15-20
I am not a fan of reality TV Shows. To be specific, I am not a fan of the competition style reality TV shows – the ones that started the craze, and I’m not a fan of the shows based on nothing other than absurd, crude, vulgar people and how they interact.
I once claimed that I had never watched a reality TV show, but a friend told me that my favorite TV show, at the time, was classified as a reality TV show. The show was Ground Force (1997-2005), where three gardeners, Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock, and Tommy Walsh, went into someone’s back yard and turned it into a masterpiece over a single weekend while the owner was out of town. Titchmarsh was a well-known celebrity. The other two were discoveries for the show. Charlie Dimmock, the lone female on the team, was a water feature expert, and Tommy Walsh was the builder (pergolas, greenhouses, storage sheds, etc.). Others helped, especially Tommy’s assistant starting in the second season, as the construction ideas kept growing. They had a tight deadline, getting the work done before the person who was being surprised got home. There was no cursing, no evil doing to gain advantage. They had just been invited by someone to surprise a loved one.
It seems that reality TV has been classified as anything that is unscripted. Many of the TV shows that I refuse to watch are not scripted, but the situations are scripted. Conflict is artificially created between people on the show just to see how much they can be pushed before the hair pulling starts. In other words, everything that the Scripture above says not to do will be done by the actors on screen, especially the acting foolishly. These are the people that the directors of the show hand-picked due to their ‘colorfulness.’ Is it colorfulness or is it living proof that John Calvin was correct? We are “totally depraved.”
No. Not gonna watch that.
But I will have to confess that I am torn. Do I watch the Super Bowl in its entirety, or do I watch my new favorite reality TV show, Highway through Hell?
I was half-watching the Weather Channel a year or so ago on a weekend. I was really reading a book with the TV on in the background. A rerun of an episode of Highway through Hell came on. I was comfortable, and I had reached a good spot in my book that was too good to put the book down. I had been silly in that the remote control was at the far side of the room. So, I let the show continue. Eventually, the show sparked some interest. These drivers of wreckers were doing some interesting engineering calculations in their heads. How heavy was the load? At what angle from the roadway was this vehicle in the ditch? Was there an obstruction (a rock or a log) that would add resistance to the recovery? Had the load shifted from the bottom of the trailer to the trailer sidewall (not designed for that much load)? Wow! I had done these types of calculations when I was in college and then again in the Army.
At first, I just watched reruns on weekend afternoons, but I now watch the shows when they first air. Yes, there is an occasional bleep to cover a curse word, but rather than having actors placed into scripted situations, this is real work. It also brings back memories.
When in the US Army Corps of Engineers in Germany, there were military maneuvers. Every now and then, a tank would get lost and drive through territory that was off limits. Sometimes, we had to pay the farmer or forester for ruined crops, but once, when I was still a platoon leader, we got a call to help pull a tank out of the mud. Our reaction was a few questions. “Doesn’t the tank battalion have extractors to get a tank unstuck?” “Isn’t the local combat engineering battalion in direct support of the war games?” “Why call us? We are the heavy battalion (meaning too heavy to drop equipment by parachute, mostly doing construction work – not vehicle recovery)?” The response was that our questions would be answered once we saw the situation.
When our earth moving platoon leader arrived, he asked the same questions. The officer in charge said others had tried to help and made matters worse. Then his patience grew thin and just ordered us to grab the hook in the bog and pull. We saw the end of some type of military vehicle with a hook attached, barely visible in the mud. The rest of the vehicle was submerged in the bog. There was not enough above the level of the mud to figure out what type of vehicle it was. Our D-7 bulldozer started pulling from a position outside the bog. As we won the battle, a D-5 bulldozer, smaller than our D-7, appeared. We noticed than the bulldozer was attached to something deeper in the bog, a chain pulled tightly, extending into the mud.
We started to ask, but the officer in charge just kept telling us to keep pulling. We made sure that the bulldozer tracks would roll freely, and we continued to pull. Soon another hook became visible. As the pull continued, a tank extractor vehicle, especially designed to pull tanks out of ditches, appeared from the bog. We noticed that it was attached to something even deeper in the bog. The pull continued until the tank emerged. Three vehicles tied to each other were pulled out by our one vehicle. The trick was that we started on solid ground while the others got too close to the tank and started sinking themselves. They have had recoveries on Highway through Hell that were similar, using an even larger bulldozer.
Of course, when the operators on the TV show lament over how hard it is to recover a fully-loaded vehicle, I think of the soft drink truck in India. On my first trip to India in 1998, a soft drink truck was wrecked, going the wrong way, on a two-lane road from Navi Mumbai to Alibag, just south of Mumbai, but across the opening to the bay. Truck traffic had to go all the way around the bay. The truck had just wrecked in the early morning that day. There was no wrecker to remove the truck. They simply placed rocks to warn you that the lane was closed ahead. By the time we had finished work that day, human scavengers had removed all the filled bottles of soft drink. By the next morning, all the empty bottles had been removed, along with the broken glass and the shelves that held the cases of bottles. A day later, the tires on the truck were gone along with the framework that supported the shelves for the cases of soft drink. By the next day, the truck’s engine was gone.
Two weeks later, the empty truck chassis was all that remained, along with the rocks to warn you of the hazard. About that time, we were working shift work to operate the furnace, producing steel for the customer for the customer’s first sale from the steel mill. Since there were too many maintenance issues due to the equipment sitting idle for months with no one doing preventive maintenance, they deferred all operations to us. I had been their teacher. They revered their teachers so it was decided that I would be the primary interface with the customer’s management team. My shift was supposed to be 7:00am until 3:00pm, but I often worked until 10:00pm, due to customer questions, complaints, and meetings. I rode back to the hotel with the driver who would pick up the 11:00pm crew for the next shift change. One night, I fell asleep in the SUV on the 45 minute ride to the hotel. The driver slammed on the brakes. Without any working seatbelts, I was thrown against the back of the front seat. As I got up from the floor of the SUV, the driver left the SUV and quickly returned. He smiled and held up his thumb and index fingers, showing a one-inch gap. I looked forward as he backed up and turned the vehicle. We were one inch away from being impaled by the chassis of the soft drink truck. Someone had stolen the rocks that warned you of the danger in the road. One inch further in the slide of the SUV tires and we would have been the next vehicle scavenged by the locals, once the sun came up. This was before everyone had cell phones.
And how about the recent gridlock in St. Louis, Missouri, when the snow caused trucks to jackknife driving up snow-covered hills, blocking traffic and making hundreds of motorists spend the night in their cars and trucks? Why didn’t the heavy wreckers position themselves to get the trucks up to the crest of the hill? Don’t they watch the TV show? Oh, I know why. That costs money, money not recovered if the trucks don’t start sliding on the slick spots. And the reality TV show cameras only start rolling when the wrecker first appears on site to save the day.
To answer my question from earlier, I may have to turn in my “manly man card,” but I think I would rather watch Canadian tow truck operators than watch an uninteresting game between the Rams and the Patriots, along with the commercials that have gone from cute in past years to dull, boring, offensive, and/or insulting in recent years. I also agree with Julie of Cookie Crumbs to Live By when she said that it was painful watching the Saints lose and the Patriots win (and for the same reasons, no offense intended to the Los Angeles Rams or Kansas City Chiefs).
Should Christians watch reality television? We each must make up our own mind about that. Does the Scripture above give us any answer?
Is any reality TV show actually real? What is real is our Savior, who died and rose again so that we can be with Him forever. In Him, we can find the wisdom to make these other decisions.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.