It became gloriously apparent to me earlier this month that my self-esteem has never been in better shape.

While staying with my family in New York, Mother Nature delivered either rain, humidity and/or gray skies the entire time (except the morning I left, of course). The bad news is that all photographic evidence of the visit reveals my hair’s apparent urge to star in an 1980s Aqua Net commercial, only bigger and frizzier. The good news is that the foul weather forced me to stay indoors nearly all week and familiarize myself with a crop of reality TV shows I’d previously overlooked. As it turns out, I’ve been seriously missing out on allowing others to make me feel really good about myself by default.

I take a small amount of pride in being selective about the reality programs I watch. For instance, I only tune in to the season finale of “The Bachelor.” It’s a waste of time to watch the episodes leading up to the end because each is just a predictable parade of slutty women who do everything short of clawing each other’s eyes out (although that will reportedly happen next season) in order to vie for a turn in bed with a guy so busy being in love with himself it’s a wonder he can find the time to actually bed the aforementioned slutty women.

But the finale is completely worthwhile. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing some poor girl get totally tricked into believing the guy she slept with the night before is about to get down on bended knee and propose with a 50K diamond ring that he didn’t have to pay for, only to be dumped at the last possible second for the girl he slept with two nights before?

“The Celebrity Apprentice” is a show I tune into every week, for sure. I’m not sure if it’s watching the D-list celebrities desperate to have Donald Trump make them relevant enough to inch up to the C-list or Donald Trump’s desperation for any relevance whatsoever that keeps me coming back week after week. “The Real Housewives of New York City” — half of whom either don’t live in Manhattan or aren’t married and all of whom have boobs that would make the wait staff at Hooters envious — is a staple on my reality diet, too.

“The Hills” (so I can stay current with what the kids are into these days), “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” (so I can try to guess how many more plastic surgery procedures until Bruce Jenner is mistaken for Joan Rivers) and “Deadliest Catch” (so I can be reminded that it could always be worse) round out my reality menu, making my viewing plate seemingly full.

But now I feel compelled to make room for my new finds. Like “The Biggest Loser.” The episode I saw showed a bunch of morbidly obese people who had only just finished losing serious amounts of weight (100-plus pounds, in some cases) being told they had a month to train for a marathon.

It wasn’t so much the understandably horrified reactions from the contestants that was captivating, but imagining the ice water that ran in the veins of the producers who thought up the task and then must have had to negotiate big time with NBC’s lawyers and insurance company to get approval for something that could easily kill some of those poor folks who already strained their hearts recently. “ER” wished it had the kind of drama that will surely ensue on “The Biggest Loser” marathon day.

I watched my first ever episode of “American Idol.” Paula Abdul, of “Straight Up” and “Rush Rush” fame, lip-synched and danced like it was 1989, at which time she proudly boogied with a cartoon cat. Only this time the cat was definitely a hallucination, brought on by the pharmacy she obviously ate prior to show time.

As for “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” I’m not sure what was more train wreck-o-licious — the androgynous woman who’s likely charging upwards of six figures to do for people what any dating Web site or Jewish grandmother would do (although the Jewish grandmother would do it better and for no money so long as you guarantee to phone her every Sunday and promise to think about her every now and then, if it’s not too much trouble) or the “men” who pay her to make fools of themselves with rejects from “The Bachelor.”

And then there’s HBO’s “In Treatment.” While not a reality show, the people on there sure re-affirmed for me that I am good enough, smart enough and not nearly as screwed up as so many, many others.

If there’s such a thing as the Mental Health Olympics, sign me up, because the gold is as good as mine.

E-mail questions or comments to meredithccarroll@hotmail.com.

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