A new reality series relegated to HGTV (I would have never known of its existence if my dad, an avid HGTV watcher, hadn't alerted me), Living with Ed (Sundays, 10 PM) follows the daily superenvironmentalist lives of Hollywood B-listers Ed Begley, Jr. and his wife Rachelle Carson Begley. It's a fairly entertaining show, but after two episodes the formula is pretty clearcut: Ed loves doing things environmentally soundly while his wife struggles to put up with what she perceives to be merely environmentally conscious eccentricities. And that's just it. Whether intentionally or not, Living with Ed reduces environmentalism to just another eccentricity. The title of the series is evidence enough of this mentality; having to live with Ed is like living with a goiter or living with a dog that pisses on the carpet--it's just something you have to put up with.
Like any standard reality show, Living with Ed revolves around conflict (a comparable sitcom that immediately comes to mind is Everybody Loves Raymond). Ed buys a second solar oven that his wife wants to get rid of. Ed buys a rainwater collection barrel that his wife won't let him use. Ed cleans the solar panels which power the house and his wife is embarrassed that her husband's up on the roof. Of course, Ed is an environmentalist in the extreme--he rides a stationary bike to generate enough power for him to make toast, for instance. He times his wife in the shower and updates her on how much water she's wasting.
The comedic opposition the show relies on may make it enjoyable to the average viewer, but it also neglects to acknowledge any middle ground a more moderate environmentalist might conceivably find. Anything environmentally conscious Ed does, no matter how logically or ethically sound it may be (installing solar panels or driving an electric car, for instance), is taken as evidence of his eccentric extremism and fodder for his wife's ridicule. While the net effect of the show is to paint a caricature of an environmentalist gone slightly awry, it isn't meant to make light of environmentalism, I don't think--the website, in fact, offers 10 legitimate tips to becoming more environmentally friendly. Leave it to reality TV to pervert environmentalism, I guess.