I’ve gone back to school and I’m writing again. This combination leads me to want to watch very guilty pleasure Reality TV. Yes, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and hell even Fresh Off The Boat are pieces of art, but sometimes you just want some nachos instead of a healthy Salmon Summer Salad. And I must say Neighbors With Benefits was the best damn guilty pleasure reality show maybe of all time. I won’t lie, my girlfriend and I loved to watch The Bachelor, but it couldn’t compete with Neighbors With Benefits.
The ratings didn’t reflect this and the critics do not feel the same, but it had the making of a great reality TV show. The thing that made the show was not the swinging; it was the head swinger couple vs. the Christian Couple. That was some good vs. evil shit. That is where great drama lives! To see them fight for their lifestyle and belief system was addictive to me. The first episode established a great arch. It was like Swinging meets HBO’s Carnivale (I’m not a total philistine, I enjoy great art). Yet A&E just said fuck it. But why?
The ratings weren’t that bad and A&E didn’t really promote much. I think that is where the conflict started (they were afraid of Daddy Disney would think). A&E’s brand started with quality television but I think after making Duck Dynasty and Chris Angel they just said fuck that. The only way for TV Station to survive is a quality drama (AMC knows this and A&E followed with making the terrific show Bates Motel) and guilty pleasure Reality TV. This season A&E thought we need more marriage shows and that can be their thing, and they were right. While Married At First Sight is seeing marriage as lab experiment, to many pro-traditional-family-Disney-loving-people Neighbors With Benefits thought they went too far.
It wasn’t A&E’s pride that cancelled the show, they need numbers to survive the changes in TV watching. It was Disney who saw this as a Trojan Horse in one of their child channels that needed to be put down. While I don’t care much pro-traditional family values, I see them as being consistent with their traditional marriage outrage to this show. It made swinging look fun. My girlfriend and I who are in a committed related were like “shit, that could be cool when we get older.”
While it featured a nice Christian married couple, the swinging couple was much more appealing than the Christian one. I’d hang with the swinging couple, they looked pretty fun. I think this dynamic and lack of shame struck a lot social conservatives as something dangerous against traditional marriage. Social Conservatives have an outlook that we are all sinful. Marriage keeps people from embracing their desires that can be destructive. Their outlook is to follow the Good Book or we will have Hell on Earth and then go their when we die. They were not going to let a show like this stay on the air.
This put A&E and Disney in a lose-lose situation. If the show got popular there would just be more protests. If the ratings didn’t improve they still would get a bunch of protests. Poppa Disney told A&E: Stop this before the backlash come our way.
This is a shame that risk-taking is going to stay this way in non-Premium Cable and Streaming Services. Though those are getting bigger each year, and will take less risks because they will have more to lose. That is why new channels, artists, or streaming shows will make more interesting shows. They have less to lose. Controversy is good, the worst thing is to be unwatched or invisible in this era. There is still 7 episodes left for Neighbors With Benefits and they might not ever see any screen. I doubt they will. They will be locked up.
It says a lot about art. Even ‘bad art’ can be dangerous. Pornography challenged religious view points, but it was fantasy. It was not shown on mainstream television. Yet, here was a TV show more dangerous than porn because it was real, and maybe some of those Christians started to wonder if swinging wasn’t that bad of sin. Yet, those teachings came up and they were reminded of Eve and TV was the new serpent.
Adam and Eve didn’t cut down the Tree, but social conservatives of today make sure they cut it down before the fruits get to tempting.