Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Research, Reality TV Style

I watch reality television. Don't judge me. I can't help it.

I'm drawn to shows like Hoarders, Pawn Stars, The Biggest Loser, Storage Wars, Jersey Shore, Worst Cook in America--yes, I watch them. Am I proud? No. But recently, I came across a new-to-me reality show set in Detroit, Hardcore Pawn, and it was very different from the other shows I watch.

Hardcore Pawn does not focus on wealth, strapping young adults, or fun antique finds.

It highlights the seedy side of the pawn business--desperate people doing anything to scrape up money.

While I didn't find the show itself compelling, the customers and interactions blasted me with book ideas and dialogue snippets. Even as I laughed at some of the conversations, I couldn't help but feel saddened by the grisly reality of poverty and addiction. Some of the customers show up several times a day and head straight to the casino. Others need cash to pay monthly bills. One woman announced she was headed to jail the next day.

From my standpoint as a writer, the show gave me interesting material. Dozens of people wait in line each morning for the store to open. Then, inside, they wait even longer. Many of them are irate. Just watching the way they physically handle waiting is an eye-opener. Some are so self-centered and hostile, I almost couldn't believe it, but then I kept watching, and it became obvious that they weren't putting on an act.

I imagine anyone growing up in a poverty stricken area full of crime quickly learns to watch out for number one.

By the end of the episode, I had to give the producers of Hardcore Pawn credit. They broadcast an unflinching view of one segment of Detroit. It's one of the few programs that doesn't hide poverty. It might be cringe-worthy, but it did give me plenty of material to use in my books.

Do you watch reality television? If not, can you help me to stop watching reality television??

Have a great Wednesday!


  1. I watch hoarders. It's depressing, but I get sucked in every time.

  2. Not really, The problem is, I could. I get totally sucked in to watching reality tv. So I never start watching one. I watch Castle and Veronica Mars on netflix. But I could easily watch Bachelor, Biggest Loser....

    Oh, I will watch Idol when it get closer to the end!

  3. I started watching Hoarders for book research, but it's really frightening. (I wrote a blog about it.) Okay, now, don't judge me because I watch Swamp People. LOL I love listening to all those great cajuns chasing down alligators, and I think about how many bodies I could stack up in that old swamp, although that's been done a million times, but still... :)

  4. Great post, Jill. I caught this show awhile back, liked it, but didn't know they were running new episodes.

    While Pawn stars focuses on the antiques and history, this show is more of an everyday-inner-city slice of life. In one of the older episodes the owner took everyone to a gun range to learn to shoot because they were getting threats in the store.

    And you're dead-on about it being filled with book fodder.

  5. Food shows and sadly, The Bachelor. Human behavior amuses and intrigues me.

    ~ Wendy

  6. I don't watch reality tv shows. How to get over that addiction? Substitute another one? I usually play on the computer in the evenings!

  7. I like America's Next Top Model, Project Runway, and America's Next Top Chef.
    The show you mentioned sounds so sad, and so removed from my life. I don't know what it would feel like to live in that kind of situation. :-(

  8. I watch a few reality shows too, "Biggest Loser" and "Amazing Race" being two of my favorites. In fact I just wrote a post detailing my love of "Biggest Loser" just yesterday. :) But here is my question... unless you are obsessed to the detriment of other more important thigns in your life, what's wrong with watching them? You get material for your books, probably learn a thing or two about people/places you're not normally exposed to and are entertained as well. Doesn't seem so bad to me!

  9. Good Morning!

    Julie: I watch it too. My husband hates it, but I can't help watching!

    Laura: Love it--you're proactive! I've heard so many good things about Castle.

    Jessica: Swamp People!! I've watched that JUST for the accents! It's a beaut!

    Constance: Yes, I think the new season just started. Monday nights? I can see where they would need a lot of protection--talk about a rough clientele!

    Wendy: Same here, and I love cooking reality shows!

    CJ: You're smart! And I could easily replace one addiction with the other!

    Jessica: Exactly. It's not for the faint of heart!

    Angela C: My daughter and I are huge fans of The Biggest Loser. It's so inspiring!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. I like to watch the Cops shows, and my husband thinks it is hilarious but I love Dog the Bounty Hunter. I'm just so fascinated with people's behavior and honestly it's a side of life I haven't been very exposed to. Guess that is just the writers in us coming out.

  11. Pawn Stars and American Pickers are two of my new faves. Mantracker is great too!

    I go to bed at 7:30 and have found that to do it just fine in stopping me from watching too much.

    Have a great day! Great post!

  12. I watch too Jill, so don't think you are suffering in shame alone:) I stayed past my bedtime last night just to watch The Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion! Those women are packed with material.

  13. It's good to be here again Jill. Thank you for your comforting words during my loss.

  14. Jill, I've watched Pawn Stars (love it), but haven't seen the other one. I can imagine what an eye-opening experience it is. Sadly, I'm rather naive when it comes to that side of life. My husband is a firefighter in Los Angeles, and sees the gritty side of life every day.

    I'm also a reality tv addict, so I'm of no use to you. I love The Bachelor, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars. Ugh! We can start our own support group :D

  15. LOVE reality TV! I'm a sucker for the Real Housewives and my hubby and I love to watch American Pickers. I absolutely consider reality TV a form of research! :P

  16. I dabble in reality TV. No favorites just a remote control flicker when nothing great is on. Hadn't run across the Hardcore Pawn yet. :O)

  17. Kara: I had a love for Jail last year. I can't help myself--for the same reasons you listed!

    Bonnie: Bed at 7:30--that would work! We watch a lot of American Pickers too!

    Tamika: Oh, those housewives! I watched one episode of Football Wives and could easily have been hooked. Thank goodness I have no idea when it's on!

    Ellie: Wow, it's so great to see you back. I know what a horrible year you've had. My prayers are still with you. Hope things are getting easier. *hugs*

    Julie: I'm not a stranger to the race relation problems and poverty issues in Detroit. Hardcore Pawn did not feel foreign to me. But I have been insulated from experiencing it firsthand. Yeah, let's band together and form a support group!

    Beth: Me too! That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

    Diane: Ha! I love that you "dabble" in reality Tv! Funny!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  18. Sorry, no help from me! I'm addicted to certain reality shows too (or not so reality since I seem to enjoy Ancient Aliens so much.) But really, it's all good material :D

  19. Hi Jill -

    Whether we're at the mall or watching TV, we can pick up ideas for characters.

    I like American Idol and Biggest Losers. With my TV out of commission, I'm not watching anything right now.

    Susan :)

  20. Sounds interesting and a bit creepy, but a good place to find characters. I couldn't help but feel sorry for those people.

    The only reality show I watch is . . . the news. Does that count? :)

  21. I watch most of those too! I love Pawn Stars best. As far as Hard Core Pawn (don't you love the sexual reference? I don't either.) I think too think it's gritty and sad. That show doesn't have that spark for me to want to watch it to the end. I even feel sorry for the employees! Right now I'm watching AX men for research since the logging business is a part of my novel. I'll cop to watching the Bachelor and AI too. I guess I qualify as a reality show addict at this point! I can't help it.

  22. Georgiana: You can be a member of our support group. Aliens--hmm...I might have to check that out!

    Susan: So true! And it's nice to be out of commission sometimes!

    Kathi: Oh, yeah! The news definitely counts!

    T.Anne: I hear you. Ax Men is one of my hubby's shows, so I do watch it. Amazing how few teeth make it on that show!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  23. Yes! I'm definitely one of the many who have been sucked in!

  24. My reality show vise is The Bachelor. Even though it's a train wreck, I can't help myself every season. It's so manipulated by producers.

    I didn't think about Pawn Stars being reality TV because it lacks a lot of the drama that other shows cater to, but I guess it is. I've seen it with Hubby. It's interesting the things people will sell.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. It's always great to meet another romance writer. :)

  25. Kristen: It's like I'm helpless to look away!

    Lisa: I know, I know--a train wreck is fun to watch! Love your blog, by the way!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  26. I have quite a few friends that are hooked on reality TV. Personally I always gravitate toward the Fantasy/Sci-Fi stuff like Vampire Diaries. BIg surprise there, huh?

  27. Terri: Yep. It does!

    Lisa: Surprise, surprise! Have you caught Walking Dead on AMC? It rocks!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  28. No cable t.v. for me, so no reality t.v. I'm ok with that.

  29. I watch Pawn Stars occasionally. I used to think all pawn stores were similar like the Detroit one you mentioned. (but a hs girl was killed after a neighbor was stealing stuff to sell to a pawn store in my area a few years ago so that may be why I think this).
    But Rick seems pretty knowledgable. Actually I guess we watch a lot because my father inlaw calls my son Hoss and my daughter Peaches and my youngest, Chumley..
    I used to watch Rock of Love on Vh1...
    And now decided to finally watch American Idol with the kids this year. We watched last night. I'd watch maybe one show a year, but maybe I'll watch much of this season...

  30. Melissa: Smart girl!

    Kelly: I think it depends on the area and the clientele. Inner Detroit is notoriously dangerous, while Las Vegas is a tourist spot. I'm sure both shops have safety issues, but tourists aren't flocking to inner-city Detroit! Yeah, I watched Brett Michaels in all of his shows--what a train wreck! Yet I couldn't stop! *sigh*

    THanks so much for stopping by!


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