By Joe Cuhaj
Turn on the television any hour of the day and you’ll find reality programming. You can’t avoid it. It’s everywhere and the range of content is staggering. There are dramatic shows such as Bridezillas and Jersey Shore, occupational fare like Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch, and of course reality game shows like Survivor and Next Food Network Star. And wait, more are on the way. Over 100 reality shows are scheduled to hit the airwaves this fall.
And for every reality show there are multitudes of “super fans,” viewers who can tell you every twist, turn, and nuance of every episode.
Then there is Arthur E. Perkins Jr.
The Morris Township resident will speak at the Morristown & Township Library at 7 pm on Sept 15. His talk,
The Amazing Race, Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen: Reflections on Reality Television from a Superfan, is free to the public.
Originally from New England, Perkins earned a bachelors degree in economics and masters in management from M.I.T. He spent 19 years as a management professional. During that time he too began watching reality television and got hooked.
Perkins began writing comments on online reality TV forums. It didn’t take long before his entries were noticed by the RealityWanted.com.
“I was referred to the site’s owner, Mark Yawitz,” Perkins explains. “He saw that I didn’t just summarize an episode like many writers do. You can get an episode guide anywhere. I added value.”
And that he does. Perkins goes far beyond episode synopses. He details the rules, the teams, the terms used in the show. Then he takes readers beyond the average water cooler talk by examining different aspects of a show such as what makes a certain team or contestant click, saddest eliminations, most memorable moments, and more.
Soon, Perkins found he had a new career. He moved on from just writing about the Chef Gordon Ramsey show Hell’s Kitchen to shows such as Top Chef, Top Chef-Just Desserts, and a landmark of reality shows, The Amazing Race. His online success prompted him to put his knowledge into book form.
His first book, Circumnavigating the Globe: Amazing Race 10 to 14 and Amazing Race Asia 1 to 3, was released in 2009. The Amazing Race stands above the other reality shows, consistently garnering top ratings and shelves of Emmy Awards.
In a nutshell, the Amazing Race pits teams of two with an existing relationship in a race around the world. Contestants learn how to navigate exotic countries, cultures, languages, and each other for the ultimate prize, one million dollars.
For Race fans, the detail that Perkins puts into his writing is remarkable and the insight gives a new perspective to the series, which is his favorite show of all time.
“It’s laborious [detailing episodes] but hopefully it’s of value to people.” Perkins said.
Within the pages, Perkins documents amazing moments, analyzes why events happened the way they did, and what was a team’s demise.
Since that first release, Perkins has penned two more books, Chef Wars: Hell’s Kitchen and Chef Wars: Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, and Top Chef-Just Desserts. Each book contains in-depth analysis.
It’s interesting to hear Perkins’ take on these shows. About Gordon Ramsay, Perkins says, “It’s quite obvious that he’s a showman. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Hell’s Kitchen fan, but it’s clear from his actions that he’s way beyond being the best chef. He’s a showman.”
In Chef Wars: Hell’s Kitchen, Perkins calls Ramsay “a bigger showman than P.T. Barnum.”
On the editing of a reality show for dramatic effect: “I’ve taken a few shows to task for over-editing, such as Hell’s Kitchen, which causes over dramatization, but the Amazing Race is just about right. It’s excellent.”
Perkins has no shortage of material. A new book on Hell’s Kitchen and other chef shows is in the works– plus a new edition on the Amazing Race from season 15 to the present.
His books are available online at Amazon.Com, AuthorHouse.Com, and CreateSpace.Com.
Mahwah native Joe Cuhaj is an avid fan of The Amazing Race, when he is not busy writing books. His works include nature guides in his adopted home state, Alabama, and a history of baseball in Mobile. His next one will explore the cultural impact of the space race.