Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading Lite. Less links, less calories, tastes different.

Take the episode in which, according to a synopsis, “the new Town Council struggles to find a solution for Bonanza City’s growing trash problem.” Bullshit, Michael wrote. The kids were disposing of trash just fine by themselves. The producers created the so-called “growing trash problem” by dumping it into the town. “Without the production crew, [Kid Nation] would have been fairly boring,” Michael wrote. “The producers engineered problems when we didn’t have any. Without them, the show would have reflected very well on the children, but it would have been a snooze.”

Reality television is most addictive when it’s edited. There’s a reason viral 24/7 live cams are usually fixed on pandas and puppies. Strangers are compelling enough for serialized television only if they’re not getting along. In her book A Paradise Built in Hell, essayist Rebecca Solnit argues that Survivor, the archetypical American reality show, wouldn’t be in its 27th season if the producers had simply dropped a bunch of people on an island and asked them to cope—“the goal was to produce a single winner rather than a surviving society, a competitive pyramid rather than a party of cooperation.”

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