It’s hard to imagine that there was a time, not too many years ago, when reality television was in its infancy, just one genre among many to be found on the boob tube. There was a cast of squabbling castaways with rippling abs, desperate to win immunity and a million dollars; and a bunch of self-absorbed singles (with rippling abs) presented with temptation and a big paycheck for making asses of themselves on a tropical island. Even Donald Trump (whose abs we mercifully didn’t see) was not yet in search of arrogant and ambitious people to fire every week.
Yet many of us surmised from the start that the “reality” contained a good deal of fantasy—that much of what we saw on these shows was contrived and staged, despite the lack of professional actors and writers on staff. Could scandal be far behind?
Reality Check takes place in another New York, in some ways—not quite when dinosaurs roamed, but close. Who knew that within months after I wrote a scene where my characters light up in a local bar, that our mayor would ban smoking in public places? What I thought was outrageous parody at the time I wrote it, seems tame by comparison to some of today’s reality shows.
And yet, human nature being what it is, the story remains timely. For instance, what happens when you’re told you can’t do something—like, say, play in traffic? Makes you want to dart out between the parked cars, doesn’t it? And what if you’re asked to make a promise not to fall in love? In that case, it’s time for a Reality Check