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Watching Reality TV is Unexpectedly Giving Me Peace of Mind

I love reading. My earliest memory is of choosing my weekly books at the Philadelphia public library, placing each one carefully in my tote bag. In fact, I hate the ending of every book, because it’s just that—the end. I’m getting choked up thinking about it.

But I can’t read. Well, I can read, I just can’t right now.

COVID is distracting—like really distracting. I feel foggy, jumping from one work assignment to another with very little discipline. I have many tabs open on my computer by the end of the day, and I keep homing in on ridiculously small tasks pulling at my attention.

So when it comes to the evening and unwinding, the many books on my nightstand remain closed, despite the covers that would typically call to me. I. Just. Can’t.

Instead, something I thought I would never have the attention for—mindless reality TV—is calling me, begging me to indulge. Who am I to say no?

Yes, I Watched “Tiger King”

It started with “Tiger King”—our first family show early in COVID.

“Wait, tell me again—it’s about that woman that runs that big cat place in Tampa?” I had said to my sister, who’d just finished watching it with my niece and nephews.

“Yeah, the place Mom and Dad took the kids when they were little.”

Though it hardly sounded appealing, we dove in anyway.

I wish there was a camera that recorded my expression as I watched the story unfold. It was mindless. It was ridiculous. It. Was. Awesome.

Each night we gathered on the couch to watch another episode, resulting in unexpected family time. I couldn’t get enough of Carol Baskin, Joe Exotic, and their animals. I was a voyeur to their escapades and the complete disdain they held for each other. 

I loved it.

Truth be told, I was kind of sad when it ended—much like my books.

And “Selling Sunset”

Luckily, I was talking to a friend the next night who mentioned her guilty pleasure: “Selling Sunset.” She told me it was about this group of women and their incredible real estate listings. I do love real estate, so hey, why not. She added that she’s not so into reality TV and knew I wasn’t either. Well, pre-COVID me wasn’t.

The next day she asked if I liked it. I sheepishly said, “Yeah, I think so. The first four episodes were pretty good.” She almost fell off her chair.

“I know! I can’t explain it. It’s shallow, mindless, ridiculous—and yet, SO satisfying.”

We scheduled an outside watch party with four friends whom we roped into viewing it, saving the last two episodes to watch as a group. It was delicious, and I served Sunset Martinis—who doesn’t love a signature cocktail? And friends??! Yes, actual living people that could physically distance on my patio on a beautiful evening. Pinch me—and take that, COVID.

“Now what?” we asked when it was over.

“‘Million Dollar Beach House’—let’s all watch it and save the last two episodes again.”

We agreed to the plan. And then I promptly broke the promise, watching all eight episodes in two nights. What was I going to tell the girls? I kept my mouth shut.

Two days later the texts came, one by one.

The first: “I didn’t mean to watch the last episode of ‘Million Dollar Beach House,’ but I did!”—followed by the “oops” emoji.

Dot. Dot. Dot.

The second: “I did too! That show sucked!”

And then I caved. “Me too!”

Probably what I love most about reality TV is the low expectations—both the ones I have of the shows and what is required of me. My brain can pretty much just punch out for the evening. Dreamy.

And luckily for me, this is just the beginning. 

And . . .

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“Project Runway” has 251 episodes. “Dancing with the Stars,” 428 episodes. And “Survivor” has—wait for it—540 episodes.

Time to put on my pajamas.

Stephanie Silverman

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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