Do recent reality shows have us heading in the wrong direction?

| Cadenza Staff

Todd Hoffman, featured in “Gold Rush Alaska,” stands on the porch of his cabin at the gold mine about 40 miles north of  Haines, Alaska. Hanes is on a make or break venture to mine gold in the southeastern Alaska wilderness to provide for his family.Al Grillo | Courtesy of Discovery Communications

Todd Hoffman, featured in “Gold Rush Alaska,” stands on the porch of his cabin at the gold mine about 40 miles north of Haines, Alaska. Hanes is on a make or break venture to mine gold in the southeastern Alaska wilderness to provide for his family.

Ever since basic cable networks came into being, about a million unnecessary reality shows have graced its airwaves. These shows have to fill all 257+ channels with something, right? Of course, they do. Here at Cadenza, we took the liberty of previewing some of the most egregious shows. Some look hilarious, some look stupid, but most of all, they all lead us to ask just one question: What is wrong with America? Check out these shows so you can ask that question yourself.

‘Gold Rush Alaska’
Friday at 9 p.m. on Discovery

The most recent recession has caused hardships in the lives of all Americans. Many have had to make certain cutbacks. Six men from Oregon, however, felt the best course of action was to pack up, leave their families behind and mine for gold in Alaska. Adding to the drama, the men have zero mining experience and no mining equipment. The sense of ridiculousness is compounded by the strong patriotic undertones of rugged individualism and the American Dream. This, along with Sarah Palin’s “Alaska,” shows a disconcerting trend as Discovery strays from educational programming towards folksy, conservative reality TV. To be fair, it is a popular formula. If those kinds of shows interest you, but you need a new venue, tune in to Discovery.
—Adam Rubin

‘Storage Wars’
Wednesday at 8 p.m. on A&E

As a group of sweaty older white men dressed like Metallica roadies stand in a desert hawking bills at a speeding auctioneer, you get the feeling that these were the kids in the third grade who took time capsules way too seriously. In each half-hour episode of “Storage Wars,” we follow four competing collectors as they buy the rights to unpaid storage lockers, oftentimes on a hunch or a gleam, and then go to their stable of wacky experts to appraise and sell them.

Though it seems like another knockoff of History’s “Pawn Stars,” “Storage Wars” is surprisingly versatile. After the thrill of the auction dissipates, we see their homes all crowded with stuff. Most of it is junk (some for sale), and we watch the frown on their wives’ faces form as the warriors sheepishly report their spending. There’s also comedy, namely Barrie (who looks suspiciously like Stan Lee), who employs a little person and outfits him with night-vision and stilts (and you ask: why doesn’t he just hire someone tall?).

The most surprising part is how catty they all are. Each auction is a mini price war, each player with his own slew of mind games, spicing up what could easily be recast as an entirely depressive activity. In many ways, “Storage Wars” can be seen as a spiritual precursor to “Hoarders” (also on A&E); each of their protagonists seemed doomed to a future of some type of gambling addiction or self-destructive materialism. For now though, they’re happy enough to goad karma, turning a quick buck off of other’s economic and personal tragedies, not the least of which is a custom wardrobe made for the now incarcerated Suge Knight, abating reality with dwarfs and night-vision.
—Nick Hawco

‘The Hasselhoffs’
Sunday at 8 p.m. on A&E

This reality shows tries to portray David Hasselhoff as a regular guy. Seriously, he claims that he is exactly like any other dad, trying to get the best for his kids. Yes, all fathers have camera crews following them in their quest to recover from alcoholism while their daughters try to make it in the music industry.

“The Hasselhoffs” chronicles the life of David and his daughters, Taylor-Ann and Hayley. We get to see The Hoff struggle in his career, claiming he cannot find a single job in the entertainment industry, while watching him beat his disease. In one episode, he brings his daughters to Austria so they can guest star in a concert in which he is performing. He has to go all the way to Austria to perform? Maybe he is having lots of trouble after all. Tune in Sundays on A&E to watch this crazy family mess.
—Andie Hutner

‘Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew’
Wednesday at 9 p.m. on VH1

“Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” keeps celebs in the spotlight as they battle their demons.Courtesy of VH1

“Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” keeps celebs in the spotlight as they battle their demons.

Over the years, many have suggested that one reason celebrities turn to drugs is the constant media exposure and consequent erosion of their privacy. This show scoffs at that notion and displays each moment of celebrities’ difficult and emotionally testing rehab experiences. Would they be more likely to succeed without cameras everywhere? Probably, but then how would we be able to feel better about ourselves without being able to look down on the idols of yesteryear? Be sure to catch an episode if you think that you have fallen far from greatness. It will be sure to cheer you up.
—Adam Rubin

‘Cupcake Wars’
Tuesday at 8 p.m. on Food Network

In “Cupcake Wars,” four cupcake makers duke it out to win the rights to host a special event. I want to say that this is an original idea, but there are currently four other shows in which cake makers battle to make the best cake, and I don’t see enough differences between a cake and a cupcake to categorize this into its own genre. Should you keep your eyes on the clock so that you do not miss a single riveting episode? No. Should you refrain from changing the channel if you were already in the mood for food porn, turned on the Food Network and then “Cuspcake Wars” came on? Sure, why not.
—Adam Rubin

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