Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new column, Reality AF. Every Monday, Terry Terrones will check in and talk about the state of reality TV, plus provide a Top 5 list of what’s coming up this week that you should not miss.
Let’s discuss the government. Wait, wait, wait! Hear me out.
I completely understand that the US government, which employs 1 out of every 16 American workers, is not something a lot of people like to talk about. It falls into the Avoid Talking About This at Thanksgiving Dinner mental rolodex along with politics, religion, and the $50 your lazy cousin still owes you from the last time you saw him three months ago. I’m looking at you, Dan!
Comedian Adam Conover, who most know for his educational comedy series Adam Ruins Everything, understands this as well. That’s likely why the word “government” isn’t even in the title of his new Netflix series, The G Word With Adam Conover, which is loosely based on the Michael Lewis book, The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy.
In Adam Ruins Everything, Conover debunks preconceived notions held by most Americans with topics as varied as football, prison, and sex. The G Word is essentially ARE 2.0 but with a government focus. And because it’s on Netflix and not cable TV, we get a looser, funnier and slightly more feisty version of the host.
This is a good thing, because conversations about the government can be sleep-inducing in the wrong hands, but this new series, which is produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, is up to the challenge. The G Word provides an honest assessment on what the government does well and what it screws up in a humorous and informative way. Conover even takes Obama to task for some of his most controversial decisions.
Each episode, which is around 30 minutes long, takes on a particular government bureaucracy and breaks down its pros and cons. Here are some examples:
Learn why the food pyramid we all learned in school is total bologna and get answers to the riddle of why unhealthy foods are cheaper than healthy ones.
Discover the importance of the government-funded National Weather Service, why AccuWeather sucks, and how FEMA might have been able to prevent the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina if it had any teeth.
Did you know that at one point the FDIC temporarily had a minority share of the Dallas Cowboys and the rights to a horror film starring George Clooney and Charlie Sheen? It’s also explained why big businesses can’t fail, and the reason small businesses and individuals don’t get the same level of assistance, particularly during the pandemic.
Technology, local government, and diseases get the Conover treatment as well. Fun skits from familiar faces (Penn and Teller, SNL’s James Austin Johnson, The Office’s Oscar Nunez), onsite visits to places most of us have never seen (the office where 10 people in Colorado run GPS nationwide), and humor help get Conover’s points across.
While entertaining and enlightening, The G Word is also terrifying. We’ve all grown up with a stable government: one that sanitizes the food supply, stabilizes the banking system, and is known as a world power. But after watching the first season, it’s also a reminder of why people don’t trust the government.
The government is great at looking out for businesses but not individuals. It can also be manipulated to not work as intended by powerful businesses or dirty politicians who value money over morals. “If a bank fails the government swoops in to save the day, but if your heart fails they feed you to the health insurance sharks,” says Conover in Episode 5. Damn good point but it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s still hope, as the bespectacled host suggests in Episode 6.
The government is a tricky topic for a reality show but since it’s so important, shouldn’t we understand what it does and how it works? Thanks to Adam Conover, we can learn in the easiest way possible.
5 Reality Shows to Watch This Week
1. Below Deck Sailing Yacht (Bravo, June 13)
Why you should watch it: Everybody loves a wedding episode and that’s what viewers get tonight. The only question to be answered is: who is Gary going to marry? Will it be chief stew Daisy? Newbie Scarlett? Or I’m So Over Gary I’m Going to Make His Life Miserable Ashley? None of the above! I vote for Colin.
2. Fear Thy Neighbor (ID, Season Premiere June 13)
Why you should watch it: Want to freak yourself out? Then watch this series that tells frightening tales of living next to a killer. Check out this episode description: “A single woman and her two sons believe they have found a perfect new apartment, but their overbearing landlord and neighbor soon turn their idyllic situation into a living hell of arguments and intimidation that finally ends in bloodshed.” Sign me up!
3. Chopped: Desperately Seeking Sous Chef (Food Network, June 14)
Why you should watch it: Four new chefs enter the Chopped Kitchen to compete for a sous chef job for judges Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant, and Chris Santos. In the baskets tonight is deep-fried champagne (whatever that is) and the appropriately named offal.
4. Impractical Jokers (truTV, Season Premiere June 16)
Why you should watch it: The long-running hidden camera reality comedy (that’s a lot of adjectives) returns with more cringeworthy hijinx. Celebrity guests this season include Colin Jost, David Cross, Brooke Shields, and Rob Riggle, who is contractually obligated to appear on every reality comedy on every network.
5. Home (Apple TV+, Season 2 Premiere June 17)
Why you should watch it: Travel across the globe and visit 10 of the most unique homes on the planet. I watched several screeners from this season in advance, and you don’t want to miss this show. Every episode features a stunning and innovative home that would make a great AirBnB.
Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot and aspiring hand model.
When he’s not applying for Survivor, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.
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