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Friends, neighbors, contestants

Why do we watch reality shows?

In an attempt to dig to the bottom of this multi-dimensional mystery, I will rely on the foremost authority himself, Prof. Irwin Corey, who once was faced with a similar philosophical quandary when asked "Why do you wear sneakers?" on "The Dean Martin Show."

Adapting Prof. Corey's response to my needs here, wherein we discuss the seemingly endless variety of "reality" beaming through our TV sets, we can get to the root of the problem immediately.

"You pose a diffficult question," Prof. Corey responded to the inquisition of his footwear. "So, to make it easier I'll divide it into two parts.

"First: Why? Why is a question of incredible depth and subtlety, one that has engaged and frustrated the great philosophers from Socrates up through the modern age. To even attempt to answer would be to insult this great and brilliant tradition by suggesting that someone like myself deserves to be among their august company even for the briefest moment.

"Now, as for the second part of your question ... Do I wear sneakers?


And so it is with reality shows. We watch them because we do. We might differentiate between the types of reality shows we watch — for instance, I will not watch any show about proper parenting or mate-swapping or perfect nannies of families with eleventybillion children (I have two cats that won't listen to me, so the thought of eight kids and a pair of childlike parents seems like torture) — but, in the end, we like to see things happen to other people.

People who have chosen to display their singing, cooking, fashion design, modeling, dancing, or dating skills ... or the lack thereof.

So it is this week that a two men with Southern Oregon roots join the ranks of Ryan Sheaffer ("The Bachelorette"), Lisa Rinna ("Dancing With The Stars"), Kristy Lee Cook ("American Idol") and "Make Me A Supermodel" winner Branden Rickman as locals putting their talents before on-set judges and the American public.

On Sunday night (9 p.m., ABC), Phoenix High School graduate Paul Watts tests the treacherous waters of "Shark Tank."

Watts runs Grafitti Removal Services in Sacramento, and he'll bring his business plan before the panel of business "sharks" to see whether it measures up to their standards for investment.

Watts can't comment on what happens ahead of time, but his brother and business partner Brian hints that the sharks show their teeth.

"He fights the sharks, going head-to-head in their tank for what he knows is best for him and his company," Brian Watts said in a press release that was oddly missing exclamation points.

Presumably, Watts will have better success against the sharks than did Medford-raised actor Justin Baldoni in the 2005 CBS movie-for-television "Spring Break Shark Attack" ... which, by sheer coincidence, can be seen at 11 p.m. Saturday on the SyFy Channel.

In the thriller, Baldoni plays J.T., a good chum of the protagonists — although given the creatures on the loose, it's probably best not to be a chum.

Meanwhile, Grants Pass contortionist dancer Hairo Torres is one of 20 semifinalists on NBC's "America's Got Talent." The two-night semis begin at 9 p.m. Tuesday, but it's unclear whether Torres will face off with the Hoff (if you don't know, count yourself luck) on the first night or on Wednesday.

Having seen video of Hairo's performance this week, it's clear that he's obviously a fan favorite.

But you have to wonder how often the man can do a complete split to the floor without viewers voting him off just so he hurt himself ... or future Hairos.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin writes about television each week in Tempo. Have a question, comment or "Guilty Pleasure" show? Send it along to rgalvin@mailtribune.com and put "The Little White Dot" in the subject field.