The Czarina and I aren’t much for watching television, but that’s a severe simplification of the real situation. We’re not much for watching television for television’s sake. Especially when show season starts, we have too much to do, too much to research, and too much to pack to afford to kill three or four hours watching the glass teat. That doesn’t mean we’re two of those snobs who sniff “Oh, I don’t watch television, because it’s all garbage.” No, in our case, we only watch television while we’re working. The money that could be spent on cable goes instead into new supplies and new plants, so we go through lots and LOTS of DVDs.
Naturally, this leads to all sorts of interesting conflicts when we spread out tarps and dropcloths on the living room floor and work on our next projects. I really detest the overuse of the terms “razor-sharp” or “needle-sharp”, but the Czarina’s elbows certainly feel like both when it’s my turn to pick the choice of viewing on an evening. I make a suggestion of lightweight family fare, and I usually wake up six hours later without such advanced skills as color vision. We tried settling our disputes on entertainment in a respectable and civilized fashion, and, well, that’s when I learn why every roller derby league in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex wants to sign her on. (Much as when I describe my first marriage as Absolutely Fabulous/Farscape fanfiction, this sounds much more fun in concept. It’s definitely more fun when you don’t try to walk away and realize that your knees are now ball-and-socket joints instead of hinge joints.) We usually compromise at this point, and I’m able to get my Max Headroom fix when she’s with friends for the evening.
Anyway, the Czarina’s background inspiration while working is, these days, the reality show Project Runway, which is about as close as we get to standard reality television. (Well, between that and Prehistoric Park. Every once in a while, I’m able to remove the remote and use it myself when she’s not looking.) If you’re not familiar with the show, the basic premise is that 16 up-and-coming fashion designers compete every week for the opportunity to show a line of apparel at New York Fashion week, as well as for big cash prizes intended to help them launch their own clothing lines. Every week, the show gives everyone a particular challenge, usually to be finished within the next day, where it’s shown on a runway before judges. Each week, one contestant is chosen as winner, and one gets removed.
One of the reasons why the show is strangely addictive is that, as opposed to most reality television, Project Runway actually features people with real talent. Oh, the first couple of episodes usually remove the contestants who weren’t cut out for more than costuming, but by the halfway point, you’re looking at the remaining designers having to work at beating the others. What’s funny is that most of the near-winners go on to better careers than the actual season winners, mostly because they’ve shown off their merits and realized how badly they want to be designers, and not just reality show stars, after all.
Another one of our dirty secrets is that we usually celebrate our wedding anniversary in the same way. That is, setting up shop in the middle of nowhere, turning on cable, and watching crap until what Bill Hicks referred to as “my hump of hate” is full. We burn out any interest in mindlessly watching television this way: three days of seeing Pajama Jeans ads cures us of any interest in getting cable for another year. It keeps us remarkably productive.
Anyway, all of this discussion on television made me wonder why nobody’s yet pitched the idea of a gardening show following the Project Runway model. After all, if the DIY Channel can grunt out The Vanilla Ice Project, it shouldn’t be all that hard to sell a sixteen-week series dedicated to pushing the limits of small-scale gardening, right?
And naturally, my mind goes horrible places. We follow this too closely, with Janit Calvo and Billy Goodnick filling the Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn niches. We get sixteen gardeners and garden designers, give them hori-hori knives and insane challenges every week, and watch as someone gets sent home every week. (In particular, I can see Billy telling disqualified designers “I’m sending you upstairs to clean out your space. Do you need the wheelbarrow or just the handtruck?”) Best of all, we tape everything, just to show the world what sort of loonies the gardening trade encourages. I can see it going for twenty seasons.