Move That Bus

How Reality TV Shaped Me

Tabatha Coffey from Tabatha’s Salon Takeover

One of my fondest childhood memories is getting to stay up an extra hour on Sunday nights to watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show gave me a passion for a good wrecking-ball demolition, a hero named Ty Pennington, and an unrealistic perception that houses are built in a week while families are away at Disney World. The majority of my free time as an elementary school student was spent creating my own episodes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with Polly Pockets. This spin-off-series involved creating an elaborate backstory for the Polly Pocket family and then sending them off in the Polly Pocket airplane to an exotic destination while I redesigned their home. A small baby Jesus that I once found in a King Cake during Mardi Gras served as the baby of the Polly Pocket family. To this day, I am still defensive about other small children playing with my Polly Pockets.

We got cable television right around my thirteenth birthday, and so began the next phase of my life in which I considered myself an amateur pastry chef. The competitive cake decorating show fad hit me hard, and I watched everything from Ace of Cakes to Cake Boss to Food Network Challenge to Ultimate Cake Off. I’m not entirely sure how to explain why my obsession was so strong, especially considering I don’t like cake. I wore my t-shirt that said, “Life is short. Eat dessert first” at least 3 times a week. I was 12 years old and I had found my calling.

I hosted a “chef” birthday party in which 4 of my closest friends and I took turns being the judge for one round of a 5-course meal and everyone else competed to see who could cook and bake the best. Plating was crucial to the success of a dish. Friendships were put to the test. At the end of the party, my mom tallied the votes and called me aside. “You won,” she told me. We had planned for this. Naturally, since I had designed all the rules of the party, worn a chef hat, and was the most emotionally invested in the competition, I was the likely winner. Yet this was a conflict of interest. You cannot win your own birthday party. And so the prize went to the runner-up, but everyone walked away with a goodie bag consolation prize.

Competitive birthday parties continued too far into my teenage years. For my sixteenth birthday, I had yet another party based on a tv show: Minute to Win It. There were two teams and I don’t remember who won but I do know that good times were had by all, transferring oreo cookies from our foreheads to our mouths and attempting to eat five saltine crackers, all within the minute-long time constraint.

Jon & Kate Plus Eight became Jon & Kate Plus Nine as I was adopted into the family via television. I recently saw a photo of the children now and my have they grown. Another one of the greats was Four Weddings, a show in which 4 people attend each other’s weddings as judges — a show that you might be thinking I planned as a sixth grader after the success of my cooking competition birthday party.

Kate Plus Eight

A less popular but equally entertaining show that sticks out in my memory is Tabatha’s Salon Takeover in which a woman named Tabatha pretty much overthrows hair salons across the nation. Tabatha doesn’t take shit from anyone, and that’s the kind of attitude that will get you your own show. In the show’s intro, Tabatha tells it to you like it is. “I’m tough, I’m talented, I’m taking over.” Because Tabatha starts with a T and so do all these words, Tabatha has laid down the law in a way that not many of us can. I attempted to find synonyms for these adjectives that would work with my name, but I am still searching. Once I find them, I will launch my own reality show. There will likely be some sort of home renovation or pastry art component to it as well as a healthy competition.