What is a documentary these days?

I am writing this as I watch the cringe-worthy British “documentary” called The Undateables, airing on Slice. (I should point out the only reason I heard about it was from a commercial while watching Big Brother Canada. Cheap plug: BB Canada host Arisa Cox chatted on my syndicated radio show last week. The audio is at www.speakfreecelebwatch.com.)

Back to the so-called documentary: From a guy with Tourette Syndrome who twitches and shouts profanities (like “dumb slut” and “horny bitch”) when he’s on a date to a guy with Asperger syndrome who is completely paranoid about going on his first date in 20 years, the show (I think) is meant to explain the challenges these people might have when finding a mate.

But it was the commercials that were run that made me tune in thinking, “Is this show so heartless that it is going to have viewers laugh at these people’s expense?” I was intrigued to watch based solely on the tease from the ads.

In fact, the promos made the show seem like I’d be laughing hysterically at their awkwardness and how the people are so repulsive that they strike out when trying to impress a potential mate. (Let me make it clear: that’s how I interpret what the producers want me to feel as a viewer, not that I would actually have that response when watching.)

In the end I found myself almost in tears watching the people try so hard and to be so unlucky in love. At the same time, whether or not people have a clinical condition, I am not sure the necessity of focusing on people that, let’s be honest, are meant to look like freaks in the promos for comedic value. Aside from entertainment value, that’s really the only thing I can come up with.

The woman on the date with the guy who has Tourettes says, “I haven’t heard him swear yet which is disappointing because I think that’s funny.” Little did she know the profanities would soon be flying.

Did the outrageous clips and sound bites get me to tune in? They did. But I, unlike some viewers, was watching to see if the show would offend me as much as I expected. Did it? No. But it made me overanalyze the intent of the reality-type context.

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