November 12th, 2019

Moon landing was true reality television

By Lethbridge Herald on July 27, 2019.


Al Beeber

Lethbridge Herald

When the primetime Emmy nominations were released recently, I figured “Game of Thrones” would be in the running for a few. Never in my imagination — which admittedly isn’t great — would I have thought it would nail a record-setting 32.

The haul beat the previous record of 27 set by “NYPD Blue” in 1994 and this time included a bunch of nominations for acting. The series sole acting winner so far has been Peter Dinklage with three.

But this time around, several cast members are in the running including Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington as leads, the latter which I find a little surprising because he was pretty mundane throughout the final series.

In the supporting categories, “GoT” hopefuls include Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Dinklage, Alfie Allen, the superb Gwendoline Christie — who apparently pushed for her own nomination after HBO left her out of the mix, Lena Headey — another dubious choice, Sophie Turner and the amazing Maisie Williams.

The Emmy love for “GoT” is rather surprising in light of the overwhelming viewer criticism but perhaps with the season winding down, there was some sympathy voting.

When I was looking through the award categories, I was a little surprised to see how many now exist for so-called reality programming. When the Emmys first introduced a category, there were few to choose from with the biggies being “Survivor,” “Big Brother” and “The Amazing Race.” “Survivor” was long the favourite, that series being one which used to land me a lot of criticism from some in the local arts community because I devoted an entire weekly column to it for a couple of years.

But “Survivor” had mass appeal and its fans were extremely loyal. We here at the newspaper even helped stage a “Survivor” finale party one year at a local watering hole where I dressed up as a pig and former city editor Craig Albrecht — wrapped up in bandages — chased me around with a toy retractable plastic knife I borrowed from the kid’s friend in honour of an episode where one contestant fell into a fire after killing a wild boar.

Never before and never since have I ever worn — or even considered wearing — pink pigs feet and ears and leotard in a country bar. What were we thinking?

Since those early days of reality television, the genre has absolutely exploded and now the Emmys have three separate categories, one for structured reality program, another for unstructured reality program and a third for reality competition series.

This year’s nominees in the latter include “The Amazing Race,” “American Ninja Warrior,” “Top Chef,” “The Voice,” “Nailed It” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

I have not seen a single episode of any of them this year, and a couple I’ve never seen at all. 

In the other categories, I’ve caught an occasional “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Deadliest Catch.” Some I’ve not a clue what they’re even about. Times have definitely changed for my viewing habits.

The original reality program may not have been produced on this planet. That one was the Apollo moon landing on July 20, 1969, the anniversary of that momentous occasion which was celebrated last Saturday.

The moon landing and the first steps on its surface by Neil Armstrong had the world transfixed on that summer afternoon 50 years ago. But that was just the final event in a program — specifically the NASA program to reach the moon — that was launched by American president John F. Kennedy who pledged to his country the feat would be achieved before the 1960s were over.

Kennedy, of course, didn’t live to see the landing but his words set the stage for the space missions that would lead to history, first with the Saturn program then the Gemini flights.

For years, we who lived in the Sixties followed the successes and occasional failures of NASA as it progressed toward that July day when Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were watched by millions of earthlings walking and working on the lunar surface.

That was truly reality television in grainy black-and-white. It was the real definition of “unstructured reality” because anything could have gone wrong at any moment from the time Armstrong and Aldrin left Michael Collins to orbit the moon alone waiting for their return to space.

With only newspapers, radio and television to rely on for updates, we didn’t have the immediacy we do now in this connected world which made the event more fascinating.

We clung to the edges of our seats waiting for updates as the three astronauts headed toward history and waited with bated breath for their return.

No reality programming today can compare with that. Nothing again short of Armageddon ever will.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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