PBS: Producers’ B.S.

I remember a PBS reality television show in which a few families were supposed to live the lives of early to mid-19th Century frontier settlors. They would have to contend without electricity and plumbing and engage with each other in typical pioneer activities, like quilting bees. Could these individuals of the 21st Century handle such a rugged life?  Would marriages fall apart?  Would kids discover the joys of life without video games?  Would they be able to stay warm in winter and lay in provisions for the impending winter? We would tune in to see what the bad old days were really like through modern eyes.

Food was of course an issue. The participants were supposed to grow their own (maybe there was a dry goods store in town too). The women (since gender roles were enforced) cooked in a wood stove and spent many long, drudging hours to make bread and produce other edibles. One homestead, which included a married couple and their son, who was probably ten years old, was allocated a pig to raise and eventually eat. Over the course of this important social experiment, the piglet grew under the care of the boy. Not surprisingly, the boy, living on very close terms with an intelligent creature with a personality became attached to the pig as one would to a pet.

I have never succeeded in freeing my mind of the episode in which the pig was to become dinner.  Apparently the producers of the show had tough work with the boy who was devastated at the thought and protested. Of course, in the end, our intrepid pseudo-settlors had their quiche with bacon, accompanied by the producers’ voice-over giving us the line that they forced down the boy’s throat (before they forced the pig down it as well) that the pig would have wanted them to make use of him in that way. We don’t know who slaughtered the pig.  Interesting that such a purportedly honest look at frontier life would have admitted showing that scene.  Why did the producers omit that? A little too much reality for reality television? We could have seen how glad the pig was to give his life.

I want to find that boy and ask him if he ever recovered from being forced to stand by while the producers killed and served his friend for dinner.