Naturally, I watch TV because it’s entertaining, it brings me joy, books take too long to read, etc. but I believe that it can also be instructive. If I’d never seen the episode of Punky Brewster where Cherie got trapped in the refrigerator while playing hide-and-seek, I may have never learned how dangerous that seemingly innocuous appliance really is. But TV can also save your life in ways that aren’t so obvious. Besides being better than refrigerators.
Most learned people think that reality television shows like Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise are harming our society and that even the reality programs that aren’t celebrating idiocy and low culture are creating a sense of entitlement in the nation’s youth and promoting ruthlessness or egotism.
But what if these learned people have it all wrong and reality television is actually what’s going to allow our civilization to survive? I usually just mindlessly watch the weird shows on networks like Animal Planet and TLC but recently I’ve been starting to think that some of these shows might be able to help us navigate a post-apocalyptic future (which—let’s just face it—may ironically be brought about by these very shows).
On this Animal Planet gem, Trent Jackson and Skipper Bivens, two Okie fisherman, teach city folks the ancient hillbilly art of noodling—aka catching catfish with your bare hands. (I’m assuming that they went with Hillbilly Handfishin’ as opposed to “Hillbilly Noodlin’” because the latter might suggest that the show was all about hillbilly genitalia or intercourse or something, which, as far as I can tell, it isn’t.) Skipper and Jackson take their often apprehensive students into a murky river and position them beside a brush pile where they wade in the water, patiently waiting for a fish to latch onto their hands. Under their tutelage, even the most novice fisherpeople are able to snag a five-pound flathead.
If there were some kind of nuclear fallout or other massive atmospheric change it might not be the greatest idea to eat catfish. But let’s say that there was a low-grade apocalypse that resulted in a food shortage. You’re going to need to feed your family and handfishin’ is going to be your best bet if you don’t have any tools. I’ve never actually gone out into a dirty river and attempted to noodle but I’ve seen three episodes of this show, so I’m pretty sure that I’m an expert at it.
An extreme couponer is ostensibly a frugal person who obsessively collects coupons. But what I’ve learned from watching this TLC reality show that showcases a different coupon crazy lady (and the occasional man) in every episode is that these people are really just food hoarders. Even when their pantries are filled and their basements are jam packed with toilet paper, deodorant, and cleaning supplies, they can’t stop themselves from going down to their local supermarket and seeking out deals.
In one episode, a woman had so much stuff that she’d run out of places to keep it so she stored it in her children’s’ bedrooms. Coupons aren’t going to save you when the shit hits the fan but if you watch this show and pay close attention to where these people live, you’re going to know where to go if you run out of provisions.
This long-running, Emmy-nominated game show is set in the wilds and per its tagline demands that contestants outwit, outplay, and outlast their competitors. I don’t know how applicable anything that has ever happened on this show would actually be in a disaster situation but if you watched Survivor you would at least be able to identify past cast members and know to stay away from them in a post-apocalyptic world where the population has dwindled and the government has collapsed.
I just know that some jerk who was eliminated in one of the first couple of episodes of, like, Survivor: Fiji, is going to try make himself the leader of our civilization just because he was on Survivor.
Hosted by no-nonsense, kind of intimidating supermodel Heidi Klum, the design challenges on Project Runway often require that contestants construct outfits out of unconventional fabrics. In several seasons, the designers have had to make chic ensembles out of grass and other organic materials. Season seven included a challenge where they were only allowed to use spare parts from a Saturn hybrid car to create their garments.
After some catastrophic event has destroyed all of the Old Navys, you may need to make your own clothes. Watching the designers toil away on this show could give you some ideas on how to create something stylish yet functional out of whatever raw materials that you might have available to you.
The Bad Girls Club
Airing on women’s network Oxygen, The Bad Girls Club is a lot like MTV’s The Real World in that its cast gets to live in a gorgeous house that they end up trashing by the end of the season (the show was also created by Jonathan Murray, the producer of The Real World). Though not officially a contest, each bad girl (read horrible human being) tries to present herself as the “realist bitch in the house” with the ultimate goal being to make sure that everyone knows that she “runs things.”
People give Kim Kardashian a hard time but any of her family’s reality shows would seem straight up classy compared to this abomination. The girls routinely jump each other for no reason (not that there’s ever really a reason to jump someone) and they’re basically just nasty people. What’s worse, sometimes they call their parents who encourage their daughters to be evil to the other girls. In one episode, a girl poured bleach into the contact solution of one of her roommates.
As horrific as this show is, I almost think that its necessary to watch it at least once just to see how deplorable people can be. The survivors of any major disaster are going to be a cross-section of society and The Bad Girls Club will show you the kind of terrifying people that you might have to contend with.
Which reality shows do you think would be able to help a person survive after a cataclysmic event?