Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Quality Reality TV

KOCE (Orange County public tv) has been showing Frontier House. I originally caught it on PBS a few years back when I was living in NYC. It's still good the second time around.

Frontier House is a reality tv series in which three modern families go to Montana to live like homesteaders circa 1883. They are there for six months and live as authentically as possible-- building their own log cabins, wearing 1883 clothes, using outhouses, churning butter, washing clothes by hand, and so on. Each and every family member has to pitch in. At the end of their stay, a historian comes in to judge whether any of them would survive the winter.

The families are a real hoot. There are the Clunes-- rich folks who left behind a fancy lifestyle in Malibu, CA. The Glenns-- middle class folks from Tennessee. And the Brooks-- newlyweds from Boston who held their wedding during the course of filming (above). The Brooks are pretty laid back, but the Clunes and the Glenns don't get along. The drama between them isn't overdramatized, but it's enough to be entertaining and revealing (and sometimes annoying). It's a fascinating look at how 21st century folks cope without modern amenities.

Some quotes from the series:
Four foot by about twelve or fifteen foot. It wouldn’t even fit the books in our house.
- Mark Glenn, speaking of their Prairie Schooner wagon

Neighboring is a lost art in our society. We’re such a mobile culture, it’s rare to really get to know your neighbors or invest any great deal of energy into the art of neighboring.
- Nate Brooks

I feel like I’m growing up a lot here because like before like if I was in Temecula or California or wherever I used to live like I wouldn’t do anything. I would just sit on my butt and watch TV and I was just a lazy person. But like now that I’m actually doing work I feel like a better person. Like you know I’m actually doing something to help other people.
- Tracy Clune (kid)
Quotes made by the people about two months after they returned to normal life:
In modern life there’s almost too much to choose from so I’m not really sure what to do… We could do anything. We could get a Masters in anything and recreate ourselves and become anything, make any amount of money, have any amount of kids. It’s overwhelming. You know, I’m not sure exactly which one to pick.
- Kristen Brooks

You’re a man or a woman working hard in the twenty-first century and your kids don’t know what it is that you do. It’s seamless. They’re isolated from it. And that’s sad… I realized that more so than ever since I’ve been back. But in five months in 1883 I got more satisfaction, more accomplishment, more appreciation than I did my entire career beforehand.
- Gordon Clune

I think the year 2001 is kind of boring. Every day I always say I’m bored and my parents get mad at me for it. But there’s nothing to do. There’s just nothing to do here. You get kind of tired of going to the mall every day. And you get kind of tired of doing nothing all day.
- Tracy Clune (kid)
p.s. Frontier House is available on DVD in case it's not being shown on your local PBS station.


Octopus Grigori said...

I think it's sad when they kill the pig.

black feline said...

it's like an Amish community i supposed..or Little House on the Praries?:)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I've been on vacation and am just now getting my fill of the genius of Chanchow...
Greatest show ever! I have it on DVD and have watched about a hundred times. Even more demented, we took a detour from a road trip in Montana to visit the Frontier House museum, where they have all the original cabins set up, and a store that sells the companion book (which I totally bought). Have you ever seen Manor House? It's even BETTER! The British do the educational reality-tv thing sooo well! A bunch of brits volunteer to be servants in a grand manor house to a family temporarily elevated to the titled gentry. Unbelievable. The geniuses behind this show also did The 1900 House and The 1940 House, which I will soon be getting on DVD (early birthday gift from the hub). Most unfortunately, Americans have ruined the concept with inferior productions along the same lines -- Colonial House and most recently Texas Ranch House. Both terribly disappointing.
Btw, some interesting post-show scoop (may be outdated as the show was in the fall of 2001): Mark Glenn (the Tennessee guy) completely lost his mind and was unable to cope with life in the modern world. So he went back to Montana to live in a cabin and work on a ranch and may still be there today. Crazy, huh?


chanchow said...

Welcome back to blogville, LC. Thanks for the kind words!

I didn't know there was a Frontier House museum. That sounds crazy. How funny would it be if Mark Glenn were running it. I thought it was sad that he acted like he didn't want to be a stepdad. Personally I thought Karen's kids were sweet, it was Karen who was the pain.

I've heard that Manor House is great. I should be add it to our Netflix queue.