Despite continuing forays into that cesspool of television some like to call "Reality TV," the ABC network has produced two exciting new hour-long fictional dramas with "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost." Right now these are the most exciting shows on television, trumping even the likes of HBO.
"Reality" and "TV" are two words that should never be mixed, together forming a wonderful oxymoron. Such shows use real people as fodder, "Playdoh" if you will, molding them into some forced plot construction. The concept of a show like "Wife Swap," for instance, is more of a psychological/sociological experiment than a true reality. The people who would put themselves on these shows are the human equivalent of lab mice.
ABC's Wednesday night triumph is "Lost." The hour-long show excites the imagination with wild "stranded on a desert island" scenarios while taking the time to flush out the complexity of its characters through dramatic flashbacks. In fact, it's not the show's plot that so fascinating, but the attention to detail that each character gets on the show. The character of Locke, a seemingly dashing hunter-survivor sort, is revealed in flashback to be a lowly office worker, engaging in warrior fantasies. The show presents you with stereotypes you think you've got figured out, then delves into their characters' pre-stranded island past for surprising revelations. In most cases viewers will find themselves relating more with these people's plights than with those of "The Bachelor." By using subtly and nuance these stranded and lost souls spring to life more so than the willingly exploited opportunists of reality television.
Also on ABC is "Desperate Housewives," a well done guilty pleasure that indulges our own fantasies about the secret lives of the people next door. Cheating wives, estranged husbands, shrewd mother-in-laws, secret agents that double as eligible bachelorsn sounds like pure pulp. Except the writers of this show color their characters with the paint brush of humanity, bringing them forward from their pulp origins. It goes to show that TV has come along way from the worlds of "Leave it to Beaver" and the "Donna Reed Show", with their separate beds, past the thin sensationalism of daytime soaps, and into a new era where television storytelling has achieved the best of both worldsnexciting storytelling merged with the type of complex characters formerly available only in films and novels.
On both these shows the ultimate message is positive if not hopeful, on the complex nature of human relations. In stark contrast stands these reality shows whose very nature is to exploit bad behavior and change the idea of the "Human experience" into "The Human experiment."
Zach Porter is a photographer for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 or firstname.lastname@example.org