Unreality TV

It’s a poorly-kept secret that reality television is in fact only partially that—situations and conflicts are contrived to create maximum drama and ultimate titillation, to make viewers return to see where the ugliness ends.

It was something of a relief, then, that the first two episodes of Jockeys were not characterized by the manufactured antagonisms endemic to the genre; my relief, though, was quickly dissipated by the realization that the makers of this particular “reality” show were absolutely shameless in their willingness to make stuff up.

Watching this hour of television, viewers would believe that horses go down in pretty much every race.

They would think that a race caller mentions the jockeys as often as he mentions the horses.

They would infer that jockey George Woolf died because of the dangers of racing, not because his diabetes most likely led to light-headedness that caused him to fall from his horse.

They would labor under the misapprehension that the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita is the most important and “most competitive” of the year.

They would think that the roar of the crowd as Mike Smith entered the winner’s circle aboard Zenyatta could rival that in a football stadium.

The essential dishonesty of such easily refuted impressions makes suspect the entire endeavor; we know that “reality” shows are contrived, but the absolute misrepresentation in this program will only make folks feel manipulated when they realize the “reality” that they’ve watched isn’t “real” at all. What a great way to bring fans to the game: mislead them.

And it makes me ask: if there’s so much dissembling that we can recognize, how much that we can’t determine has also been feigned?

Other clunkers:

How incredibly original to have the female be the only jockey who talks about the majesty and magnificence of the horse. And to cry at the thought of leaving her family.

Are there no editors on the show who might have caught the misspelling of Hystericalady’s name?

Many of the conversations are fairly platitudinous and predictable; they seemed staged, particularly the scene with Sutherland and Smith in the restaurant. Did they have to memorize those lines?

I did enjoy a few moments; I liked that the show focused, if only briefly and without any attention to narrative flow, on the starters, and the conversation between Kayla Stra and her agent was instructive and illuminating. It’s not a surprise that the best part of the show was the Lady’s Secret…but why did it take nearly an hour to show an actual horse race?

It probably doesn’t make much sense to write about something for which you’re not the intended audience; I don’t think that the producers are aiming for the dedicated race fan, and maybe it’s my own interest in the sport that makes me marvel at the genius of taking situations that are so inherently compelling and making them tedious.

I have no idea where this “reality” show might be headed, what dramatic arcs might be in store for us in the coming weeks, and I’m not sure that I’ll tune in to find out. I do have one fervent wish, though:

Please, please let them stay away from Saratoga.

10 thoughts on “Unreality TV

  1. Spot on BB.With the exception of The Right Stuff, and even that had it’s moments of eyes rolling in the back of the head, I have yet to see a production, about aviation, that is worth a dam.Then again, I wanted to become a pilot after I saw Airplane, so what does that tell you?

  2. I was also a bit conflicted watching Jockeys. It was nice to see our sport finally get some mainstream coverage outside of race-day broadcasts, but I felt like it was so dumbed down and contrived that the “reality” that was presented was so far away from how the sport really is.Also, could they have made Garret Gomez look more evil?It seems like they’re realizing that we need to make stars out of the people in the game, instead of the horses that people might only see run 2-3 times a year, but successfully doing that is clearly a work in progress. As a side note, I was cheering more for Kayla Stra when she won on Sunday than I probably would have been had I not seen the show.

  3. I learned to golf after watching Caddy Shack! Another misconception is that viewers would believe that only Jockeys get the purse money and that it’s not distributed among the finishers depending on the condition of the specific race.I’m not a fan of reality TV, I don’t even like plays or concerts! Give me planned, crafted production value any day. However, I think this show will get more people interested in racing, and I can look beyond my dislike of some of the aspects and be thankful. Besides, once our new potential fans get passed the fact that announcers don’t tell us how each jock finished, think how disappointed they’re gonna be when they realize they probably won’t hear the call from the grandstands anyway or that the track keeps 20+% of their winnings or that for some reason they can’t wager on their new favorite track from home!

  4. I went in with low (very low) expectations so I was pleasantly surprised. The proportionally absurd number of horses falling (2 in 4 races) also really bothered me (along the music and editing). The other stuff was typical “reality” TV silliness. Most reality TV is an abomination but I can live with Jockeys if it generates interest in the sport.

  5. Mistakes aside, I am willing to suspend disbelief just to enjoy a little racing footage. Of course it is not real, no reality show is.The industry standard in reality TV is: one hour of usable footage edited down from 100 hours filmed.

  6. Thanks, everyone, for posting your reactions–it’s been great reading how other people saw the show, what inaccuracies bothered them, which they were willing to overlook. WG: Do you mean “damn” or really, a horse’s mother? I love the pun, intentional or not.Derek: I’m with you on the Gomez comment–hilarious!Dana: you don’t consider a play a “planned, crafted production”???SF: I knew you’d feel that way!CG: “Most reality TV is an abomination.” Truer words were never spake!SS: I wish that I were as willing as you to overlook the messy stuff…I’ll even take the much-maligned OTB channel over this…

  7. Hahahaha! But think of how much FUN it would be to see them follow jocks around in Saratoga… can anyone say Caroline Street, 2am?

  8. Come now…didn’t you want to know about Mike Smith’s closet space?I agree about how they made Garret Gomez the evil one, it was not necessary. Particuarly when they made trainer Jeff Mullins out to be an ok guy.

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