I’m not a reality TV fan. I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy the occasional episode of “Hoarders” or “Intervention”, because I definitely do, but the concept of being a voyeur in people’s lives who are in some way extraordinary, whether it be because they have a ton of kids or some crazy lifestyle, seemed ridiculous to me. Why not be extraordinary yourself? I know it’s easier said than done, but when it comes down to it, I just don’t enjoy the sensationalization that’s at heart in most of these reality shows.
The idea that a reality show could be so legitimate and emotionally sincere had never really closed my mind until today, when I got around to watching Marlee Matlin’s TV pilot for a reality show about a hearing child in a deaf family, called “My Deaf Family”. Sure, it’s not something that a ton of people are familiar with or may even be able to relate to when it comes to the daily drama of being a hearing kid in a deaf family, but then again, most of the show focuses with just how relatable they are.
Sure, they’re forced to do some things differently (like order pizza over video relay which I never knew was possible, so that was actually kind of cool for me) but they are, literally, just your average family. They deal with the cards that life has dealt them and there may be some difficulties, but it’s the closest representation to a “normal” family unit that I’ve seen in recent TV history. The father of the family, Leslie, states it perfectly in the pilot when he says that he prefers to think of being deaf as an identity rather than a disability.
My biggest fear, as awful as it may sound, is that after the pilot that it will get picked up. I know that’s the point of a show, but I can honestly say that within the 10 minutes of the pilot, I’m already too attached to the family. I’ve seen what happens to reality show families. I’ve seen what the media turns them in to and the disruption of normalcy. Although I hate to admit it “Jon and Kate Plus 8” is the perfect example of this. After watching just the pilot, I don’t want that kind of future for these people. I would certainly continue to watch if they continued to distribute it on Youtube, and I’d probably watch if it eventually got picked up by TLC or some other network, but there’s still that fear for me. These people have a good thing going for them in their lives and while I understand the desire to show middle America how deaf families are just like any others, I’m worried that the reality TV format will corrupt as it’s done so many other times.