Is pop culture getting smarter? - April Avison

Since it became wildly popular a few years ago, reality television has annoyed me. I wondered why people would waste their time watching such crap. Who cares if a couple can survive living on an island and being tempted by sexy singles? Why should it matter to me which bachelorette gets the rose from a man she's known for three weeks?

But I've changed, and now I'm a believer. My new favorite show is "The Apprentice," one of the most popular series on television, in which young businesspeople compete to work for Donald Trump.

I'm hooked. On the evening of the most recent show, I found myself shouting at the television at the contestant I've grown to hate, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, who, to my pure delight, was fired by Trump on Thursday's episode. Yes, I've grown passionate about people on a television show, people I've never met, people I should have no reason to care about.

But I can justify it. At least "The Apprentice" is an interesting concept, a competition that involves more than a prize of a diamond ring. Winning a job opportunity, in my opinion, is much more worthy than winning a cruise to Cancun.

Perhaps reality TV isn't so bad ... as long as it contains an element that allows viewers to use their brains. And "The Apprentice" does just that. While watching, I find myself strategizing and trying to determine how I would accomplish the task assigned to the contestants.

Since "The Apprentice" is one of the highest-rated shows on TV, I must determine that perhaps television, and thus pop culture, is getting smarter. Perhaps the networks are finally responding to a demand for more intelligent entertainment. Perhaps audiences are raising the bar and admitting that they gain nothing from tuning in once a week to see what haircut and style trends Jennifer Aniston is sporting.

Americans are saying that if television has nothing to offer us, then we'll turn it off and read a book. Give us something to challenge our minds, teach us something or at least provide fodder for water-cooler conversation.

Of course there are still millions of viewers who will tune in to see if the star of "The Littlest Groom" will select a little person or an average-sized person to accept his diamond ring and accompany him on a cruise. But you know what? That's their loss.

April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Monday. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at aavison@henryherald.com.