Finding serenity in reality T.V.

I promised myself I would never watch it. A T.V. show embracing every Jersey stereotype imaginable? No way would I stoop to that level and watch my beloved state exploited and made fun of.

But then I saw the first episode of "Jersey Shore," and I was hooked. It was the biggest train wreck imaginable. The girls were slutty, the guys disgusting and their behavior trashy beyond belief. It was the worst show I’d ever seen on television, and I couldn’t get enough.

What is it about reality T.V. that has the power to hook us in so strongly? Over break I got to know reality T.V. better than I ever thought I would. I soon found myself sitting on the edge of my seat when "Maury" went over DNA results on "I’ll prove a married man is my baby’s daddy!" I cursed the commercial breaks that made me wait to find out "Who’s the daddy? Me…or my teen son!"

"The Steve Wilkos Show" became my favorite trashy morning talk show. He offered more compassion than Maury and put his years as a police officer to good use. I loved the way he yelled at deadbeat dads in "Where’s that fight for your son?"

I like to think that I’m a somewhat intelligent human being. I read the New York Times. I watch BBC news. I’ve made dean’s list every semester. But I’m also addicted to reality T.V.

Maybe I watch it because I need a break from the stress of school. Or maybe it’s because it’s so mindless that I don’t need to be completely paying attention to get it. Reality T.V. has no plots to follow, no character development to pay attention to. On "Rock of Love" I get to see Bret Michael’s chase after barely legal girls who weren’t born until after he became a has been. On Bravo’s "Millionaire Matchmaker" I don’t need to figure out whodunit or try to follow some complicated medical procedure. All I have to do is turn on my T.V., sit back and enjoy watching people make fools out of themselves for the sake of a few minutes of coveted camera time.

It started to get worse when I began to watch VH1 this semester.

My lowest point came two weeks ago when my roommate came back from class to find me sitting on my bed, eyes glued to my T.V. watching "Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair." It is a dating show that revolves around Frank Maresca, a 31-year-old living in his parents basement who has been on various VH1 shows such as "I Love New York" and "I Love Money." His goal is to find a nice girl and move out of his parent’s basement. Instead of giving the "lucky" ladies flowers to stay as an object of his love, he presents them with keys to his parents’ basement.

Frank is not attractive—he makes his living whoring himself from one reality show to the next. Yet there were girls throwing themselves at him. It was so far removed from reality that it made me forget the huge pile of homework I had on my desk. For one hour I sat transfixed with one question running through my mind: what is it about this garbage that makes it so addictive?

I think I watch it because it removes me from my own reality. For the hour or so each day I lose myself in the world of "Cheaters" and cease to think. My brain is on autopilot and my only responsibility is to pay attention to the lives of others. Maybe some day I will break this habit, but for now, the insanity on reality T.V. keeps me sane.