Scripted television will always be my primary love but today I want to spend a little time celebrating the wide world of non-scripted television. Though it’s all too often looked down on, there is a lot that it has to offer. Game shows, home decorating shows, cooking shows, competition reality shows, profession-based shows, and shows that just follow a group of people around all have a place in the television landscape. Today I’ll be talking about some of the shows I have loved throughout my TV history.
I grew up watching game shows. I could spend hours watching Card Shark, The Newlywed Game, Family Feud, Pyramid, and the Price is Right. I was also particularly fond of all the great game shows on Nick in the mid-90s like Legends of the Hidden Temple, GUTS, and Figure it Out.
Legends of the Hidden Temple will always be my favorite non-scripted show of all time. I watched it every time it was on and dreamed of competing on the show. When Nickelodeon created their Games and Sports channel, I was in high school and still really enjoyed watching the show, even if now I got extra annoyed at the kids who couldn’t figure out how to assemble a three-piece monkey. I am a Blue Barracuda at heart, even if I recognize that I would have been a horrible competitor. Even if I managed to get past the water stage, I would have been the kid who didn’t wait for Kurt to finish asking the question before I buzzed in and answered the wrong question. Then if I managed to get in the temple, the guards would have scared me when they jumped out and I would be flustered and slow down. It wasn’t an ideal show for my set of skills as a kid but nothing else gave me as much enjoyment watching it.
The summer between my 7th and 8th grade years, I completely inverted my sleeping schedule and as a result, got very interested in the late night airings of Blind Date and Elimidate. The snarky comments that were displayed in the corner were a particular favorite of mind and while I’m sure none of those couples went on to find everlasting love, there was something entertaining about the strange dates the couples went on. Currently, my dating show love is being filled by another completely ridiculous show – Baggage, hosted by Jerry Springer. The premise is simple. One contestant has a large piece of baggage that remains hidden in a suitcase. They have three dating prospects, who each have 3 suitcases, concealing a piece of small, medium, and large baggage. They reveal hidden quirks or things that may make potential suitors pause a moment before starting a relationship. Throughout the course of the show, the field gets narrowed down to one match, at which point the contestant’s baggage is revealed and the other person gets a chance to either accept the baggage and go on a date with them or reject it and move on. It’s especially fun to play along and guess who the person will go for and what their baggage is but it’s also fun to play along with a romantic partner and talk about what baggage they would or wouldn’t accept out of the options provided.
Last up in this category is a classic that I have been with through many iterations. If I am near a TV that is playing Family Feud, I will be watching it until the end of that string of episodes. I particularly like the latest episodes that Game Show Network is playing because Steve Harvey has the best reaction faces and he will continue to gently tease the contestants about their ridiculous answers for the rest of the episode. I have way too much fun playing along, especially during Fast Money.
I really like food. I love to cook and I can spend hours looking at recipes. Choosing new restaurants to try during vacations has always been fun to me. So of course, I really like Food Network and the Cooking Channel.
As far as actual cooking shows are concerned, Good Eats is the show that has both taught me the most and entertained me the most. I like learning a little about the science behind cooking and like the random asides in the episode that explain food history or the best way to choose a kitchen tool.
In the world of cooking competitions, my current favorite is Chopped but my all-time favorite is still the original Iron Chef. I love the unnecessary pomp that I associate with the show and while there is very little in Kitchen Stadium that I would want to eat, I’ve always been impressed by the creativity of the chefs.
Finally, I really love all shows that feature a restaurant and their most beloved food. I don’t care what the show is as long as it features people who are happy and proud to make something so loved by the customers. I like seeing people enjoy what they are eating so any interview with the chef who loves it or the customers who happen to be there at the time of filming will always make me smile. As a cook, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing that people enjoy what you do and it always makes me proud for the restaurant.
Miscellaneous Shows of My Past
Finally, there are three shows that have defined portions of my past that I would be remiss to not mention.
First, American Idol. This what the show I had to watch the summer it came out. Even when we were on vacation, I made sure I would be able to watch that night. I saw every episode and was thrilled when my favorite (AJ Gil) made it to the top 10. Looking back, he was left the competition at the right time, he wasn’t great in comparison to the others but I remember how sad I was that he was kicked out. There’s a reason that Kelly Clarkson has been so successful – she is amazing. I loved her performance of Natural Woman and she quickly became my favorite to win. Then I stopped watching for 6 seasons. I was vaguely in the loop of what was going on because my mom watched and I followed along with her but it wasn’t until the 8th season that I came back to the show as an actual viewer. I happened to walk through the living room during one of Adam Lambert’s songs and very quickly fell in love. So for the next few weeks I continued to follow him and he was the first person on the show I had voted for in a very long time. I was a bit grumpy when Kris Allen won, though I’ve since come to love him even more due to his post-Idol material. The show brought me to a wonderful fandom and the summer of 2009 is a cherished memory in my life of staying up way too late and meeting some incredible people.
Next up, Deadliest Catch. I’ll never fully understand my love for the show or why I found it so entertaining to watch people go crab fishing in extreme weather conditions, but man was I attached to many of the captains and their crew. I loved the family about the Northwestern and to this day, I am incredibly proud of what Jake Anderson has been able to accomplish in his life and the new family he’s found in the Hansen brothers. I left the show after Phil’s passing in season 6 but I can’t help but smile whenever I hear about something that happens on the show.
Finally, the original Ninja Warrior. I watched this show regularly with my boyfriend and we were both hooked on this strange and impressive show. I love the quirky people who never made it far but always gave it their all and I love the All-Stars for their impressiveness on the course and their attitude toward winning and losing. I will never understand how Mr. Ninja Warrior got his name when he was so bad at the game, but there is something almost impressive about his determination to conquer the course.
What are your favorite types of non-scripted television, past or present? Are there any that you have had the same emotional connection you have with your scripted shows?