“Common Ground” column for April 12, 2013

BY CHANTE WARREN

My DVR is pre-set for next week’s lineup of reality shows. Curiosity is my bait.

Who can resist following a parade of contestants to see who can cha-cha the best, hit the highest note, catch the biggest alligator, bake the tastiest cupcakes or walk down a runway in stilettos without falling?

As with TV viewers’ habits, my show picks started changing within the past decade. I can count on one hand the number of dramas or sitcoms I still watch. Nielsen ratings show that reality shows have consistently made the Top 10 programs in the past 10 years, capturing 77 percent of audiences during the 2008-2009 season alone.

While “Swamp People” is not a show I normally watch, my husband won’t miss an episode and it’s hard for me to walk past the television and ignore a 12-foot-long alligator thrashing beside a tiny boat and a man yelling, “Choot ’em.” I’m holding my breath and asking out loud, “Are they crazy? What if someone falls into the water and gets eaten?”

In those moments, I realize why reality television keeps us coming back.

Film editors know how to strap us to our chairs. Just as the hunters go in for the catch and the gators are snapping at their feet, the cameras pan and go to commercial break.

The 1948 TV series “Candid Camera” is often credited with being reality TV’s first. Reality shows in general are cheaper to produce and do not require employing high-priced actors.

Gossipy and dysfunctional family reality programs abound. I watched one episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” a sassy, mannerless child formerly of “Toddlers and Tiaras,” and I never bothered to watch it again. “Braxton Family Values” contains a lot of sibling rivalry, bickering and bleeping among a bunch of spoiled sisters who are in the entertainment business.

“Face Off” is a competition of make-up artists. Though I can’t draw, paint or sculpt, I am enthralled with each season’s set of characters .

Last week, one of my favorite contenders on “American Idol,” Burnell, was eliminated. Six contestants remained. It wasn’t enough for me to watch him sing his farewell song. Reality programs invite viewers to watch more content online . I did just that.

My kids are tuned in to “Dancing with the Stars” and rooting for their favorite Disney channel star, Zendaya, to win this season.

Of course, sometimes I have to remind my 6-year-old daughter not to attempt to do everything the trained dancers do. One dancer leaped on top of the judges’ table and leapt into the arms of her partner.

During one such episode, my daughter stood up on the sofa, leapt into the air and yelled, “Look mommy, I can do that,” after which she sashayed across the floor, twirled and giggled.

Reality TV appears to be here to stay as long as cupcake bakers, alligator catchers and ballroom dancers can keep us tuned in . I’m there, front and center.

Chante Warren can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.