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Lessons from Reality TV:
PBS’s Colonial House & Texas Ranch House

TexasRanchHouse [1]3,854 words

Reality TV, it’s the lowest of the low, right? Not really. Reality TV has been a powerful genre precisely because it allows one to watch a person ripped from modern day life into an entirely different world. Reality TV is a perfect venue to see how a person reacts to a severe social change and project oneself into that situation. 

About a decade ago PBS aired two excellent reality TV shows. The first is Colonial House (2004),[1] and it takes a group of modern families and puts them into a Plymouth-like village. The show’s participants seek to re-create the conditions of the early Pilgrims in the 1620s and build a viable community. In Texas Ranch House (2006),[2] the participants attempt to duplicate the conditions of Texas cowboys and pioneers in the 1870s, just after the US Civil War.

Why should a person watch re-runs of these shows? First, they are all uploaded on the internet in various places so you can see the programs for free on a rainy day, second, the programs are highly instructive in terms of outlining the Alt-Right’s answers to society’s problems. Additionally, they offer lessons in basic leadership under pressure.[3]

In Colonial House, the participants must attempt to live under the social rules of the seventeenth century. They also must attempt to re-pay their financiers and deal with the Indians. Therefore, the peculiar religious and economic conditions are plausibly duplicated. In Texas Ranch House, the participants must round up Longhorns and drive them to a location for sale. There is an owner, his wife and daughters, and a “girl of all work.” There are also hired cowboys who must do the work along with a cook and foreman.

In both shows, there is clearly considerable help from the two shows’ production teams. The colonists arrive in a village which already has Plymouth 1620-style village built. The group is provided salted fish, pork, and other preserved meat as well as beer, aqua vitae, and dried peas. They also have pre-made tools appropriate to the era. They don’t have matchlock muskets or other weapons. Evidence of production team support abounds in that at critical moments surprising items appear, such as scarlet felt letters which must be pinned to clothing should someone be convicted of transgressing the various Puritan rules.

In the same way, Texas Ranch House has considerable production team support. Aside from the corral, the bunk house, family house, and other accommodations are already built. The Texas Ranch House “actors” have a garden already planted — with irrigation. Tools are provided, but no weapons. Additionally, after the Longhorns are caught, they are put somewhere and fed, but one doesn’t see this. The logistics of cattle husbandry are not really shown.

In Colonial House the colony becomes successful. The people in the community are likeable and one really gets the sense that the colony really could spread to become a great nation. In Texas Ranch House, the project falls apart.

A famous Russian author once wrote that happy families were all alike, but unhappy ones are uniquely different. This compresses a complex truth into a simple saying. Complex societies that work together need a variety of factors for successful outcomes. An unsuccessful outcome to a complex endeavor only needs one thing to go wrong. The Colonial House society has an excellent secular and religious leaders. The colony’s participants all pull their weight. The colony has clear rules and a council that allows issues to be fairly discussed. Interestingly, women are barred from active participation in the colonial council but they do influence their men. Mrs. Carolyn Heinz[4] often eavesdrops on the men’s meetings.

Colonial House’s rules-based and hierarchal set-up allows for punishments to be fairly administered and decisions are carefully considered. For example, the Colony’s governor, Jeff Wyers,[5] decides to stop enforcement of compulsory participation of sabbath observance after dissention becomes a constant issue. As acting governor, Don Heinz[6] and his council must spend two hours to deal with a suggestion by some women that the men should take over cooking duties for one day per week. Of course, such a suggestion was robbing Peter to pay Paul. If men must cook, then they can’t cut firewood. If there is no firewood, cooking doesn’t occur, the ill-considered feminist-inspired kitchen revolt is put down.

The amount of work in Colonial House is legion. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, animal husbandry, and food storage consume the hours. On top of this, the colonists must plant and harvest corn, build another house, and cut spars for sale to ships to bring their sponsoring company a profit and pay off their debts. It also possible to trade with the Indians. However, the first Indian tribe the colonists deal with are unable to set aside modern knowledge of the economics of the fur trade, so what was actually profitable in 1620, is not profitable in the 2004 Colonial House recreation. At the end of the project the evaluation goes well. More importantly, the colony was able to carry out artistic and educational endeavors.[7]

In Texas Ranch House, nearly everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The ranch owner makes a series of critical management errors starting with the first episode. One gets the sense that the project is coaxed along to completion by the PBS Producers far more than Colonial House.

The Texas Ranch House differs from Colonial House by having far less complex goals. The cowboys must round up Longhorns, brand them, and then drive enough of them to market to surpass the needed breakeven quantity. Of course, once breakeven has been met, every additional Longhorn is just more profit. Such an enterprise itself can be successful without a ranch family. The men could just as easily set up an encampment with a corral and rough it for profit.

The Texas Ranch House ends up being a success only because the buyers of the cattle up the price enough to lower the breakeven quantity needed to be profitable. Meanwhile the people of the Texas Ranch House separate into two warring camps, with the Cooke family and their “girl of all work” on one side, and the cowboys of the bunkhouse on the other. Eventually, the cowboys stage a walkout in protest to the management family’s unjust labor policies.

The “alt-right” has no loyalty to the obvious lies in the center of today’s social narrative. As a result, it is much easier for someone with “alt-right” viewpoint to see and state obvious truths. There are several standard life-lessons that can gleaned from both shows.

Feminism is a loveless ideology which is a burden upon any family, organization, or endeavor. 

There is no way to ignore the negative role of feminism in the differences between Colonial House and Texas Ranch House. In Colonial House, the producers deliberately duplicate the social rules of 1620s New England, so women are cut out of the decision-making process. The men are sympathetic to the feelings of the women, often listen to their advice, and then successfully carry out their role without them. The colony is successful in making a cohesive society.

In Texas Ranch House, the ranch owner Bill Cooke[8] the central problem is that he must contend with two feminist under his own roof, the first is his “girl of all work” Maura Finkelstein.[9] The “girl of all work” is an over-educated woman from Chevy Chase, MD. Today she is an anthropology instructor at Muhlenberg College.[10] The second, and more critical and destructive, feminist is Lisa Cooke,[11] the real-life wife of the Ranch Owner.

Mrs. Cooke’s profile describes her as “drama ministry director” at the Baptist Church she attends with her family. She is descended from actual frontier Texas ranch women, and she hopes to both honor and duplicate the feats of her resting mothers. Unfortunately, the big-church Evangelical Protestant milieu which she is a part of has no intellectual tradition which is critical to feminism.[12] In fact, big-church Evangelical Protestantism is wholly sympathetic to feminist ideals.

“Girl of all work” Maura Finkelstein does very little useful work. Instead, she badgers Mr. Cooke to become “promoted” to be a cowboy and hang with the boys for reasons of “gender” equality. Of course, this causes resentment with the cowboys who don’t need her. Additionally, Mrs. Cooke does very little useful work and, as mentioned in the final summary, “undermines the harmony of the ranch.”

Mrs. Cooke very quickly develops a hostile attitude to the cowboys. It is well-remarked upon that women in leadership positions tend to be unjust. A partial reason for this is that at the same time women have their personalities and world-views forming they are at the peak of their attractiveness. As a result, a lot of their decision-making is devoted to weeding out potential suitors. One can be perfectly unjust in doing so as getting only one to commit means the success of children and financial support. Female leadership is shot through with a sense of fighting off unworthy men at the singles’ bar. Mrs. Cooke sees her cowboys not as a valuable labor force to be supported by her loving feminine touch.[13] Instead, the “cowboys” are “betas” to be rejected.

And cowboys can easily be framed as “betas.” The American Cowboy has really only been considered noble in American society when the Western genre of film was popular – roughly a timeframe matching start and end of career of John Wayne. Before and after that window of time, “cowboy” implied a young, shiftless man, working a crummy job for big corporate interests. Today the word often means a reckless man. For example, George W. Bush was unflatteringly called a “cowboy” for his many foolish actions while president.

Mrs. Cooke hammers her husband over the cowboys, even to the point of trying to cheat them out of their just wages. Unlike the matrons of ranches and plantations of the past, Mrs. Cooke does not take the opportunity to excel by nursing the cowboys back to health during a foodborne illness crisis. Instead her callousness is apparent to all. So-called “woman’s work” is actually quite important and noble. Laundry, dishwashing, cooking, and cleaning make life bearable. Dividing work by sex actually helps an enterprise function. Men and women have different strengths. Imagine if Mrs. Cooke and her daughters swept out the bunk house when the cowboys were on round-up. There wouldn’t have been two warring camps, and a cowboy may have asked a Cooke girl to dance.

Of course, Mr. Cooke should have cut down on this immediately, but he is actually married to Mrs. Cooke. In the marital situation of today, she could rather easily nuke the family, take the kids, and drain the bank account while Mr. Cooke is stuck soldiering on with the show based on the conditions of whatever contract he has. So Mr. Cooke is stuck in a relationship where all decisions must be made “together.” Of course, this means, Mrs. Cooke’s unjust attitudes constantly makes her ranch-owning husband’s decisions more difficult to reach.

As the Texas Ranch House project moves to its climactic final cattle drive, Maura Finkelstein joins the cowboys and does marginal work. At the pre-cattle drive fandango, no cowboy asks a single Cooke woman or girl to dance. Following the fandango, Mrs. Cooke and her three daughters don’t bother to clean up the food or dirty dishes, so there is a population boom of flies. As the men do the critical work of getting the Longhorns to market, the girls bunker down for days in the semi fly-free parlor of their ranch house in their underwear. If only they had 50 cats to keep them company.

Good leadership is essential.

The United States Army’s ROTC program breaks down leadership into different factors.[14] The same logic with happy and un-happy families applies. All factors must function together in various ways, and if one factor is off the entire edifice crashes down. The ROTC trains young men in a basic, lead-from-the-front way, but leadership outside the strict, military environment of cadets leading other cadets requires more finesse. In some cases, it requires firing a person just to show to all who’s in charge. Leadership requires uncovering schemes against the leader and ending them. George Washington, for example, very deftly managed rivals in the Continental Army. In Colonial House, Governor Wyers immediately takes control, and his understanding of legal matters is clearly shown. He asserts his authority by simply reading the duties of the governor which quells a pending mutiny. Governor Wyers makes the right decisions and ignores the inevitable complaining.

On the other hand, Mr. Cooke makes a mistake that sets the tone for faulty leadership at the get go. It isn’t worth discussing Mr. Cooke’s mistakes as they compound through the show, but the first mistake must be highlighted: he sets “respect” as the central ideal of his ranching program. I was shocked when I saw this. Mr. Cooke failed to recognize that young men, with young men’s passions, working a manly job in the Texas heat are looking for any possible excuse to get worked up over a “lack” of “respect.” Instead, Mr. Cooke should have focused all on the central effort: get enough Longhorns to make a profit. The red-line needs to be failing to do one’s utmost to reach that goal.

Mr. Cooke thus comes up behind on the first crisis in his workforce. His cook, Nacho Quiles,[15] is doing a bad job. Dinner isn’t on time and served in dirty dishes. A food borne illness ensues. However just before the food poisoning crisis. Mr. Cooke also was stuck by his “respect” policy and so he had to fire his foreman Stanley Johnson.[16] “Stan” was a retired US Army Colonel with decades of leadership experience in the military. He did the tough work of organizing the cowboys to build the corral and he is fired for fighting with Nacho over Nacho’s disgusting cooking. Stan however is correct: Nacho is failing to do his utmost and harming the health of the cowboys.

Since the root cause of the problem still isn’t solved with the firing of Stan, Mr. Cooke must later fire Nacho for failing to “respect” the Cooke family. Again, there is a lack of justice. Nacho is a bad cook who has poisoned the cowboys by his un-hygienic ways. He should have been fired for those reasons, not his lack of “respect.”

You can’t escape racial problems.

Nacho is a Hispanic whose back-story involves several years living as a bum. From that rocky start, we are told he has become a top chef in New York City. Personally, I’m always a bit skeptical when the media trumpets a non-white who has, “turned his life around” or whatever. This is doubly true when a person has a long stretch of homelessness or jail. After more than 20 years of nearly un-interrupted management jobs, I know that a white man with a long stint jail and/or homelessness means trouble 99% of the time; a non-white with the same background just adds a layer of racial problems to the trouble.

But racial problems are minimal in Texas Ranch House. After all, a great many “Hispanics,” are white. There is a historically inaccurate insertion of a Comanche in Texas Ranch House. In the real life any Texan caught by a Comanche in 1870 would be killed, but in our show, the Comanche just out-negotiates poor Mr. Cooke. During the visit with the Comanche, I thought that Maura Finkelstein could have mounted her horse and gone to the Buffalo Soldier re-enactors for help like so many heroines of old, but in a feminist society women don’t do what is useful, ever.

In Colonial House, racial matters pop up quite severely. The producers of Colonial House retro-fit modern racial circumstances into the show. They have one black freewoman[17] of the colony (who leaves early) and one black freeman and council member.[18] On the whole, with them, the relations are pretty good, but as a “red-pilled” person may very well predict, on racial matters, things can suddenly shift. The black freeman Danny Tisdale is basically a NYC race activist/community organizer in his regular job, and he leaves the colony after he helps the colonists build a new house. He leaves for racial agit-prop reasons, claiming that he sees in the back-breaking work of building a house by hand the reason why slaves were in demand.[19]

Tisdale is politely hostile, and many American TV watchers will be able to rationalize away his hostility, for the Puritan faith of our fathers has long ago been replaced with Negro Worship. The Wampanoag Indians bussed in to provide a “contact” scenario are deeply hostile, and there is no way to rationalize it. In Episode 7, “The Reckoning,” the Wampanoag set up a camp and then promptly steal a chicken and some eggs from the whites in the colony. The Wampanoag the show’s narrator tells is, is a “matriarchal” tribe. You could also say that the tribe is ruled by Single Mothers. After the theft there is a tribal meeting, and the thieves are given a long talk, but they don’t give the chicken back to the whites. They also don’t apologize to the whites.

Carolyn Heinz brings a pot of cooked peas to the Wampanoag, and they reject the food.[20] The rejection is a rather serious insult. Peas cooked in the 17th-century style represent hours of work. During the interviews with the Wampanoag, one really gets a sense of deep hostility on the part of modern Indians. One Indian wishes he was fighting for his tribe in 1675, another woman gives a weepy statement filled with anti-white hostility. Yes, folks, LBJ’s Great Society kicked up our service to those people into overdrive.

What the modern Wampanoag[21] fail to mention in their attempt at white guilt lecturing is during the 17th-century the English Puritan colonists did greet the Indians with genuine open arms. They set up churches [2], translated the Bible into various Indian languages, built villages for them, and established the Harvard Indian College [3]. They even had special courts to deal with Indian matters so there would be no hint of injustice. Yet 1675, the English were taken by intense surprise when the Wampanoag broke an alliance of more than 50 years and attacked, starting King Philip’s War, America’s bloodiest per-capita war.

One note, the surnames of the participants in Colonial House have their origins form the length and breadth of the whole of Europe and yet they make a perfectly believable party of Englishmen from the Mayflower. The Anglo Elite from the late 1800s really did successfully assimilate the European Immigrant wave, but we still can’t really manage or assimilate blacks, Indians, or other non-whites.


Religion is always an important subject for society. In Texas Ranch House, Mrs. Cooke’s lack of Christian charity/feminist-Big Church Protestantism helps derail the project. In Colonial House one sees the liberal branch of Protestant Christianity represented in Lay Preacher Don Heinz and the conservative, more fundamentalist branch in Governor Jeff Wyers. It is remarkable that Governor Wyers, who is a conservative Bible Belt preacher, eventually moves towards total religious liberty while Lay Preacher Heinz and his wife are far more strict.

This does seem to match the pattern in Colonial New England. Roger Williams (1603–1683), came to believe that a State Church was not necessary, and he made his Rhode Island a place of religious liberty. Williams established the Baptist Denomination in America. Ann Hutchinson (1591–1643) famously defied the Boston religious authorities over various points of order in the late 1630s. She too moved to Rhode Island and then to New Amsterdam seeking religious liberty.

Both Williams and Hutchinson are considered by modern liberals as heroes. Both were able to create conditions for freedom of thought and religious liberty. However, this liberty really only worked among whites. But neither could triumph over racial problems. Despite years of advocacy for the Indians, Williams’ home was destroyed during King Philip’s War. Ann Hutchinson had it far worse. She and many of her children were killed in an Indian attack on the Dutch settlements of New Amsterdam.


Reality TV is not, by any means, the lowest of the low in cultural programing. Far from it, Reality TV offers lessons that are there for anyone who can see. Reality TV lets normal people and their natural talents play out, and as described above, these talents create the same patterns that the red-pilled Alt-Right advocates see.


1. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/colonialhouse/ [4]

2. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ranchhouse/about.html [5]

3. One interesting thing about the Colonial House website is that it has a figure in 17th-century dress with a question mark in front of his face. The Korean Seung-Hui Cho, who shot many people in a rampage at Virginia Tech used the image as part of his “Question Mark” alternate-persona.

4. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/colonialhouse/meet/meet_heinz_carolyn.html [6]

5. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/colonialhouse/meet/meet_wyers_jeff.html [7]

6. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/colonialhouse/meet/meet_heinz_don.html [8]

7. The Colonial House Project Duplicates the feat of the Winthrop Feat Puritans. Plymouth Colony was founded by Pilgrim Separatists arriving on the ships Mayflower and Fortune. Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by Church of England Puritans that arrived in a larger fleet between 1630 and 1635. Harvard was established in 1636.

8. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ranchhouse/meet_bill_cooke.html# [9]

9. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ranchhouse/meet_maura_finkelstein.html [10]

10. I wonder if her academic work involves inventing tales about ideal “gender” relations among the savages much like Margaret Mead.

11. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ranchhouse/meet_lisa_cooke.html [11]

12. Indeed the Evangelical Protestant Church – especially those churches which have a need for a “drama ministry” produce a thin intellectual and cultural product. To specifically uncover how America’s “Jesustainment” Christianity is fully feminist, I suggest reading the Dalrock blog.

13. Blogger Dalrock writes, ” Acts of service to others are in their twisted minds traps to be avoided, and many go so far as to order their entire lives around avoiding showing love to others, especially their families. These women are so gripped by miserliness they have made it a priority not to show love to their own children. When they find themselves unable to avoid an act of service and love to their families altogether, they first steel their hearts with resentment, turning their hearts to stone to avoid the feelings of selfless love they live in constant terror of developing.” https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/feminists-are-ugly/ [12]

14. https://www.una.edu/rotc/docs/CC%20Form%20156-4A-R%20Blue%20Card_Jul%2009.pdf [13] I wish to emphasize that the leadership principles and teaching is good for starters. As one advances in the career, whether or not it is military or not, good leadership requires a nuance. One cold, but true advice I got years later was, “sometimes developing a good team means getting rid of people.”

15. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ranchhouse/meet_ignacio_quiles.html [14]

16. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ranchhouse/meet_stan_johnston.html [15]

17. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/colonialhouse/meet/meet_herbert_amy.html [16]

18. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/colonialhouse/meet/meet_tisdale_danny.html [17]

19. The show’s producer says the following about Tisdale’s exit, “Danny Tisdale says in an interview early in the show that he sees himself differently by participating in this, exploring his American roots rather than his African-American roots. But as the series went on, he ended up having to explore what it was like to be in the footsteps of people who were openly enslaving his ancestors, and that was difficult for him. But I think it was really powerful for him as well.” http://www.pbs.org/wnet/colonialhouse/behind/answer3.html [18]

20. The rejection of the Peas is a bit ironic. I doubt any Wampanoag in Massachusetts have missed a welfare check in generations. http://www.mashpeewampanoagtribe.com/nagpra [19]

21. Ramona Peters, is a real leader of the Wampanoag Tribe. Some further info about her here can be found here: http://www.wldwind.com/rpeters/home.htm [20] & http://www.indianz.com/News/2015/019678.asp [21]