In my past life, I launched talk shows and reality shows. And let me just say that way back when, trash and conflict was the name of the game. Now don't get me wrong - trash is still alive and well on TV - between Charlie Sheen and TMZ we can get a healthy dose of celebrities and reality stars doing ridiculous things that make them seem like the worst role models on the planet.
But amidst the gloom and doom and out of control behavior that's running rampant in Hollywood, the shows that have been making me smile a little bit brighter are the ones that serve up a spoonful of hope with every serving.
Let's start with network morning shows. While I was at the gym this morning, I happened upon a report featuring Today Show anchor Ann Curry who is currently in Japan reporting live from the scene of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that literally wiped a small fishing village off the map. In the piece I was watching, Ann shared the story of a missing American teacher who had flown to Japan the day of the earthquake in order to see her middle school class in that remote village graduate. While her sister sent out a tweet desperately searching for her, there had not been any sign of her since she had left the United States. While Ann was in the village speaking with survivors she asked about the missing teacher. And something amazing happened. The residents of the village knew who she was talking about and told her she was okay. Within minutes, Ann and the Today Show crew were outside weaving through a crowd of people and suddenly spotted her. After confirming she was the missing woman, Ann handed her a cell phone and connected her with her family. And right then and there, I started crying. Sure, I was on a bicycle in the middle of sweaty men and women, but it didn't matter. Ann Curry helped locate a missing woman. Kudos "Today Show!"
Now let's segue to reality shows. These days, while conflict still is a recipe for success ("Survivor," "Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Bachelor" are alive and kicking), I find myself gravitating towards feel good TV. I am a total sucker for "Extreme Home Makeover" and love seeing the lives of families transformed within the hour - complete with a country music concert and whole lot of tears. The most memorable episode this season was the one about the girl who had died while texting and driving and the Extreme Home Makeover crew helped the family put their lives back together while keeping their daughter's memory alive and well throughout their home. Plus, they managed to get thousands of schools across the country to make a pledge not to text and drive. When a television show has an impact on the community as a whole, I say, they are doing things that are truly incredible.
Last night, I got the chance to catch "The Secret Millionaire" - another three hankie reality show featuring a philanthropic soul who goes undercover in an underserved community searching for people and non profit organizations he can help. This time, cameras followed one west coast real estate investor as he opened his wallet and touched the lives of four different people and donated up to $100,000 of his own money to support their causes. Minutes later, I flipped over to "The Undercover Boss" where the CEO of a Moving Van company helped pay for one of his employee's daughter's weddings and sent a dedicated couple on an all expense paid trip to Italy! Over on "The Celebrity Apprentice," Meatloaf was reduced to tears when his team won the challenge of the week and he was able to donate his winnings to a camp for children battling cancer.
Of course, there are my all time favorite feel good shows - American Idol - which features some of the most talented contestants in the show's history (and let me add that with the addition of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, the show hasn't missed a beat). Let's not forget "The Biggest Loser" where I am a blubbering mess every week cheering on the latest weight loss casualty and shouting out "woot woot" every time the women lose a ton of lbs. And Dancing with the Stars, which kicks off in the coming weeks with the supermodel who nearly lost her life in a Tsunami who is dancing to support a charity that helps other victims affected by natural disasters - and boy, do the families affected by the Tsunami in Japan need that now!
All I can say is a big thank you goes to all the television producers out there who are committed to producing quality television that puts a smile on the faces of viewers nationwide. It's time we see more stories of individuals who are doing amazing things to help others. Or when journalists become a part of the story (like Ann Curry) to help bring joy into the lives of a family who is trying to track down a loved one, that's what quality TV is all about.