September 16, 2021 0 comments
By Jasen Obermeyer
Reality TV appears to be the dominant form in the industry over the past two decades.
It dates back to the 1970s, with the PBS documentary An American Family, considered the first reality TV show on television, a precursor to what was to come. Following the life of the Loud Family, it dealt with the origin of their daily life until the parents divorce and the release of one of their sons.
You can also see the OJ Simpson murder case and the ensuing trial as a turning point in reality TV. Networks and ordinary people lived their lives and schedules around the broadcast of the case.
Over the past two decades we’ve had The Osbournes, Jersey Shore, The Bachelor / Bachelorette, Big Brother; a plethora of genres and shows have emerged in reality TV.
Even sitcoms and scripted shows have embraced some aspects of reality TV, with the mock documentary genre seen on shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family.
The most well-known reality show is Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Finally ending last summer, the “show” helped spur the concepts of “famous to be famous” and “15 minutes to fame”.
But why are reality TV shows so popular?
Obviously, they are much cheaper to create. You don’t need to hire professional trained actors. Ordinary people don’t get paid that much. You save more with a smaller production team and you don’t have to create a set.
But I firmly believe that reality TV does more harm than good.
A major problem is that they do not accurately reflect reality. There’s an inherent lack of trust between viewers and the show because you don’t know 100% whether or not it’s scripted or contrived. The deceptive editing, directing, coaching all help to falsely represent what is claimed to be real – everyday life. Unlike unscripted shows which fully recognize that everything is fictional, trust is completely cemented because you know what you are watching is not really reality.
Shows about outdoor survival or any other dramatic element can be forcibly created for no other reason than to keep viewers watching. If anyone seems to be having trouble, they aren’t. There’s a cameraman there, or a few members of the production crew, and if something happens to that individual, the show is over and the network could be in big trouble.
Maybe there are “good” reality TVs, and there are bad, trashy ones.
I tried to watch reality TV a bit, and one show that I watched for a while was Pawn Stars. I loved the objects brought, the stories behind them, the historical aspect. I did not like the personal interactions of the family operating the pawnshop. Finally, I got fed up. Between the interactions and the understanding of the people filmed, when the music sets in, I immediately knew what was going to happen. The predictability of this led to it being bit exciting and I stopped watching.
The only reality TV show that I have really watched religiously is Survivor. I would say it sits between reality and a game show. But when producers forcefully create moments and make them predictable, it ruins the experience for me. It still makes for some intense and raw moments, but the series has recently seen some ugly and controversial ones among its competitors, and several times I have wondered if I want to keep watching this series, my excitement to see it live decline, pass days or weeks before seeing a new episode.
Reality TV shows don’t provide a lot of substance or value to review. Once you know what’s going on, why bother to see it again? It is a unique and accomplished thing just for this moment. Many reality shows don’t last long and are therefore forgotten.
The biggest problem with reality TV is that it seems to be based on the humiliation and exploitation of the participants. On American Idol, how many contestants were good singers, and how many were made to laugh quickly and insult Simon Cowell?
You hear how this had a huge effect on the lives of the participants, their privacy invaded, turning to a life of drugs or alcoholism to cope with it. It creates an image of them that they are unable to escape or change. Everything for our good. Is it worth those brief seconds or minutes?
Do you really like the fighting, the screaming, all the ugliness and silliness that reality TV glorifies? What entertainment do we get?
Ultimately reality TV shows us the ugly side of society. It is the laziest form of entertainment that lacks any creativity. We all have drama, stress, and negativity in our lives; why would you want to watch it and experience it more?