Aaron Barnhart at the Kansas City Star has put together a multi-article package about reality television over the past decade (basically the Decade of Reality Television), and for one of his pieces he got Ken Burns, the documentarian responsible for such epic, well-regarded programs as The Civil War, Baseball, and the recent The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, to weigh in on the genre. Burn hates it. Like haaaaaates it.
“The notion that this is reality is beyond the pale. What it does is just become a vehicle for the same shallow consumerist mentality that is driving our country into the dirt… What I reject is the idea that this has any intrinsic value whatsoever other than voyeurism… What are we in the service of in these shows? Are we wanting to illuminate the plight of migrant workers in California, as “Harvest of Shame” did? Or do you wish to know the bust size of Khloe Kardashian? Do you need to watch another year of one pretty thing trying to choose among a bunch of other pretty things, becoming excuses to elevate people to stature that they don’t deserve? This is a world where we’re involved in two wars. the greatest recession since the Great Depression and a country polarized by race, by geography, by politics….and yet, this is what animates our lives. And things are much more serious.”
We would counter, but we’re too busy trying to figure out Khloe’s bust size, so we’ll let Lauren Zalaznick, who runs Bravo, Oxygen, iVillage, and whom Barnhart also interviewed, have the last word: “Some people could say, ‘Who need 20 hours of baseball in a documentary, Ken? Huh? And part two?’”