Reality TV fills those long winter evenings

It’s that time of year again. The gloomy winter days drag on, and there’s nothing to look forward to — except for the reality TV shows that are returning this month. With much of the best prime-time programming off for a winter hiatus, time slots are being filled with some of the most entertaining shows out there, including my favorites — "The Bachelor" and "American Idol."

For the next month and a half, my Monday evenings will all be spent the same: In the living room, on the couch, watching "The Bachelor" on ABC. This show, and its sister "The Bachelorette," has been a longtime guilty pleasure in our house (for my mom and me, anyway.) "On the Wings of Love" premiered Jan. 4 and features pilot/former Bachelorettecontestant Jake Pavelka, the 25 ladies vying for his affection and host Chris Harrison.

Each season before has provided plenty of drama and heartbreak, and after just three episodes, "Wings" hasn’t disappointed. In her native tongue, Cambodian contestant Channy gave Jake a less than appropriate invitation, frontrunner Rozlyn was asked to leave the show after being involved in an "inappropriate relationship" with a staffer, and the zany Michelle provided some of the most awkward, hilariously amusing moments in the show's history (sadly, the crazy contestant left the show during a group date on episode three.)

Chances are, most couples united on the show will break up soon after production (original "Bachelorette" Trista and beau Ryan Sutter are the only pair to have lasted so far). That really doesn’t matter while we watch, though. Yes, much of it is scripted, and most of the tears are certainly unnecessary, but that’s half the fun. The other half comes from the feeling that comes with watching the show: I actually want this guy to find love.

Every Tuesday night, "American Idol" picks up right where "The Bachelor" left off. For at least an hour and a half, I am in front of the TV, laughing hysterically, holding back tears from some sob story, or simply awestruck by a performance. Sure, "Idol" may be the same idea year after year, but it’s real entertainment. Each season, we watch several great (and not-so-great) performances before we choose a favorite. Then we watch as that contestant grows each week under the guidance of the judges and guest mentors. Thousands  of votes later, our favorite is hopefully in the finale.


"Idol" provides viewers equal amounts of happiness and apprehension for nearly five months until the winner is crowned. Then we get to wait at least another six months before the top artists’ albums are released. What other show leaves that much of an impact?

With only a few exceptions (Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks), Fox’s famous series has rolled out nothing but the finest. Original "Idol" Kelly Clarkson has released four platinum-selling albums, Carrie Underwood (winner of season four) has recorded a whopping eight No. 1 singles, season three alum Jennifer Hudson won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "Dream Girls," and season five favorite Chris Daughtry released two consecutive No. 1 albums with his self-titled band.

These shows are a perfect remedy for the melancholy winter months. For anyone who’s as bored as I will be next week, grab the remote and get lost in these shows. They definitely deliver.


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