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The True “Reality” of Television

Dad, Mom & the "Beaver" in Leave It To Beaver

If you get your daily dose of news from the Internet, you probably saw the headline last week about the suicide of the husband of a reality show “star.”  His name was Russell Armstrong and prior to his death he appeared with his wife and daughter on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, a “reality” television show on the Bravo Network.

Apparently, Real Housewives is one of the many shows that have cashed in on the popularity of the Desperate Housewives shows and movies.

Now before I go any further, I want you to know that I’ve never seen any of the Desperate Housewives, Real Housewives, or any of the other modern-day housewives shows, and I have no intention of ever wasting my time watching any of them. 

When I was growing up, one of my mom’s sayings was: “You don’t have to drink poison to know its poison.”  Call me old-fashioned, but a lot of the shows on television today (that are later rebroadcast over the internet) spew out poison that is routinely consumed by viewers.

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the housewives we saw on television were modestly dressed women with names like June Cleaver (Leave It To Beaver), Laura Petrie (The Dick Van Dyke Show) and Carol Martin (The Brady Bunch).  The women in those shows were portrayed as strong, caring housewives who had a great love for (and a fierce loyalty to) their husbands and children.  They, like my own mother, went out of their way to be good examples to their husbands, children and friends.

If you look up the word “housewife” in the dictionary, you’ll find a definition you would expect: “a married woman in charge of a household.”  Look up the word “household” and you’ll find: “those who dwell under the same roof and compose a family.”

Here’s what Ed Vitagliano had to say about the Desperate Housewives television show in an article that appeared in the American Family Association Journal:

There is certainly plenty of desperation on Wisteria Lane.  One of the five housewives, Mary Alice, commits suicide in the first episode and becomes the narrator who periodically frames the story lines.

The other four wives also have problems of their own.  Lynette is a one-time business-world wiz-kid turned homemaker stuck in the house with wild, out-of-control sons; Gabrielle is cheating on her wealthy husband, having an affair with the high school boy who mows their lawn; Susan is raising her teenage daughter alone, after her husband Carl divorced her for a younger woman; and Bree is a perfectionist who deceives herself into thinking her marriage to husband Rex is going well.


What many critics of the show will probably point to, however, is the amount of sex.  And make no mistake, there is plenty of that.  Beyond the fact that all of the housewives are attractive, as author Myrna Blyth, former editor of Ladies Home Journal, points out, “[A]t least once an episode one of the housewives manages to turn up in Victoria’s Secret underwear.”

There is the seemingly required club scene, complete with gyrating, minimally-clad dancers; wives seducing their husbands; a prostitute who services a straying husband, Rex, who has a fancy for bondage; the fornication between Susan and handsome, single neighbor Mike; and the adultery between Gabrielle and John.  All of this sex makes Desperate Housewives a steamy hour of television.

None of the current “housewives” shows have any redeeming value.  The viewing of those shows not only supports and promotes gravely sinful and destructive behavior, but also corrupts the hearts and minds of the viewers.

Let’s get back to Russell Armstrong, the dead husband of one of the “real housewives” of Beverly Hills.  Here’s the opening paragraph of an article by Mary McNamara that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, three days after he was found dead:

The only truly surprising thing about this week’s “TV Reality Star Commits Suicide” headlines is that they haven’t appeared sooner.  The death of Russell Armstrong, who appeared with his wife, Taylor, and their 5-year old daughter, Kennedy, on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” has given the world of situational reality TV pause.  Like a number of those participating in the endlessly self-spawning franchise, the Armstrongs were unstable maritally and financially.  Not surprisingly, the pressures of the show, which, according to friends, demanded that they play up their problems rather than try to solve them, did not improve things.  In July, Taylor filed for divorce and on Monday night, Russell was found hanging in a friend’s house on Mulholland Drive.

After his death, Russell’s mother said that he had recently told her, “Mom, they’re just going to crucify me this season.  I don’t know what to do.  I’ll never survive it.”  His mother also said, “The bashing got so bad last season I had to stop watching.  I just couldn’t bear it.  I said, ‘Russell can’t you stop this?’  He said, ‘No. All the network cares about are ratings.  They don’t care if people are hurt, or if it destroys their marriage.’  And I watched it slowly destroy their marriage.”

It’s not just the housewives shows that are guilty of promoting depravity and sinful behavior.  There’s a slew of other equally objectionable shows such as Teen Moms, Jersey Shore, Celebrity Rehab, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Wife Swap, 16 & Pregnant, Ex-Wives Club, and Temptation Island.

So this is what television “entertainment” has come to – sewage that pours out of television sets (and computer monitors) into the eyes and ears of our children and grandchildren, corrupting the way they think, and encouraging them to behave in ways that are sinful and destructive.

I once read that prior to production, every script that was written for the I Love Lucy show was reviewed by a Catholic priest, a rabbi, and a protestant minister to make sure there was nothing in the script that was offensive. 

I have no illusions about whether or not we will ever return to the early days of television when scripts were carefully written in order to adhere to a certain moral standard.  It’ll never happen.  Even if we wanted to return to those simpler times, we would never be able to because of the huge advances in technology coupled with the hardening of peoples’ hearts.

There is, however, still hope for the future.  As the forces of evil continue to increase, the grace of God will also continue to increase.  As certain segments of our society descend deeper and deeper into the abyss, heroic Catholics will rise up to lead a new generation of Christians.  There will come a time when the line that divides the two will become very clear.  Which side of the line your descendents end up on may very well depend on your example and the life you lead.  Keep that in mind next time you sit down to watch a show or movie that you know you shouldn’t be watching.

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2 Responses to “The True “Reality” of Television”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:

    Blessings for another splendid article, Harry! Like you, I’ve never watched any “…Housewives” shows. Sometimes a “preview” cut is shown as advertisement, and I find these distasteful. Same with Victoria’s Secret commercials, which pop up when least expected. They make me cringe, too, and I find myself asking God to somehow take the trash out of our World. When Surveys are taken for such things, no one asks “US”!
    Thank you again! Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ

  2. Bro. Peter Says:


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