The Richmond Register

November 18, 2012

Don’t prank me on national TV

By Marie Mitchell
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — There are so many reality shows on TV, but so few worth watching. And even fewer that I’d want to be on.

First of all, if my family ever pranked me on national television, I’d disown them. Permanently. Disney’s “Code 9” is all about committing a supposedly “harmless” practical joke against a parent and capturing all the fun on a hidden camera.

In one commercial tease, Dad and the sons decided it would be hilarious to trick their wife/mom into believing that she’d destroyed a large, expensive snow-globe in a store and would have to pay for it. Are you laughing yet? I’m not. Especially after the police show up. There are better ways to bond with my family than trying to raise money to get out of jail.

Once the shock wears off, the pranked parent seems to take it all in stride — at least while the cameras are still rolling. Not me. I’d go home and change the locks on my house. And I’d have the only key. My own practical joke.

My niece, Shannon, works for Powderhouse Productions in Boston. They pitch ideas to the TV networks and are the creative mind behind such shows as “Dogs 101,” “Build It Better” and “Making Stuff: Smarter.”

Their mission is to produce entertaining shows that are also “delicious and nutritious.” The kind where you actually learn something and no one is harmed—mentally or physically—while taping the program. Sounds like a winner to me.

I’ve been surprised by the snippets of information I’ve retained from shows like “American Pickers,” on the History Channel. Mike and Frank, from Iowa, dig through people’s yards, garages and barns seeking “antiques, collectibles and relics.” It’s a form of time travel to rediscover vintage lunch boxes, carnival games, bikes and other stuff. I was touched by the trip through an old steam engine graveyard on an elderly man’s property. He wanted to preserve the engines rather than let them become scrap metal. Turns out he was also an artist whose amazing drawings captured the majesty of these machines in their heyday.

I grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, home to the Midwest Old Thresher’s Reunion. It brought back memories of Labor Day weekends, walking through clouds of smoke as the steam-powered threshing machines strutted their stuff, whirring and purring and emitting ear splitting whistles that punctuated the three-day event.

None of this poses any danger to the participants, unlike strange shows like “Hillbilly Handfishin’.” The producers preach safety, but how smart is it to wiggle your fingers around a hungry fish, pretending to be bait? Or to plunge your hand into a hole that could be a catfish’s nest? Or there could be a snapping turtle or snake waiting there to bite your finger off or sink its poisonous fangs into your flesh. Then once you catch the 80-pound prize, and risked a limb to do it, you’re supposed to toss it back into the water? What’s the point?

One of the few reality shows that I would consider being on is “What Not To Wear,” on TLC. It promises to convert fashionably challenged participants—women like me—from “dowdy to dashing” without magic. Just common sense tips.

You have to be nominated by someone who recognizes that you simply can’t dress yourself properly to be seen in public. If the two TV fashion stylists agree, they’ll watch videos of all the mistakes you make in assembling your wardrobe, peek inside your closet, talk to you about long overdue changes that must be made, then help you transform yourself from “frumpy to fabulous.” Plus hand you $5,000 to restock your closet.

Most tips make sense. Don’t worry about the size on the clothing label. Buy something that fits NOW, not after you lose those 10 pounds you plan to shed. Pair bold colors with neutral ones to make the outfit pop. Invest in some classic pieces like a white blouse, knee-length pencil skirt, wide leg trousers, trench coat (honest!) and a black dress that you can dress up or down with blazers and accessories like jewelry, scarves and purses.

My only problem is the high heels they insist upon. My motto is practical shoes with low or no heel. The better to walk in, my dear — and to avoid back problems in the future.

With my luck I’d get a call to be on “What Not To Wear,” only to find I was being pranked by my family on “Code 9.” I may start shopping around for a good locksmith—just in case.