I read Tom Rachman’s article about the Italian reality show “Masterpiece” with great interest. On the one hand, the show will gain for the participating writers exposure for their work and it will inspire viewers not normally inclined to reading literature to pick up a book or two at the library or bookstore.
On the other hand, I wonder how much weight was given to the contestant’s work in relation to the consideration given their personalities. We all know reality show producers like “villains,” competitors who will cause trouble for the others while viewers revel in “hating” them. Of the submitted novels, did the readers go over the complete novel, or just read the first ten to fifty pages? What are the chances that the writer who submitted the “best” work was selected to appear on the show? What if that writer presented a compelling novel, but isn’t the most sparkling conversationalist? And if that writer was chosen to be on the show, what are the chances he or she will be the ultimate winner?
I think the writers who are participating in “Masterpiece” are brave. They are putting themselves and their work out there for critique that won’t always be measured and thoughtful, thanks to the reality show “rule” that meanness equals higher ratings. And the criticism will not just come from the judges and viewers, but will also be dealt by their fellow writers. The confessional videos surely will not only be filled with cries of self-doubt and frustration over writer’s block, but also with barbs aimed at the other competitors. Again, nasty sells. I would not want to watch that; the writers should support and cheer for each other.
I don’t think I would watch a United States version of the Italians’ “Masterpiece.” Writer against writer? No thank you. What do you think of this new reality show? Would you watch? Participate? Or settle into your favorite chair with a cup of hot chocolate and the latest Amy Tan novel?
And who knew book tours existed back in the days of ol’ Herodotus?