It is too late to stuff reality television back in the bottle, though some critics, including this one, very much wish it was so. Something in human nature makes people crave this type of false authenticity. Mankind enjoys watching others make fools of themselves, and even watches while knowing what they are seeing isn't nearly as real as it pretends to be. For better or for worse, the Louds were the first in a long line of publicity hounds, who are famous just for the sake of fame, not because of their own accomplishments. And the practice they sparked shows no signs of abating.
The characters that best capture this conflict are Alan (Patrick Fugit) and Susan Raymond (Shanna Collins), who are tasked with filming the project. While they do feel disdain for the part of their job that is exploitation, they continue the work. Is it for the money? To protect the family from camera crews with fewer scruples? To find a sense of completion? Or are they just, despite reservations, as fascinated as everyone else with what is happening? Draw your own conclusion.
One benefit can be attributed to the reality genre: it inspired this HBO film, which is a fun, not not always light-hearted, delight. If you missed the premiere, it will be rerunning throughout this week. Be sure to catch it.