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Just How Real are Reality TV Shows?

Updated on July 3, 2012
UK Pop Idol - Season 1
UK Pop Idol - Season 1

I've been a reality TV show junkie for most of my life. My first taste for these shows probably started on the day I came across Pop Idol on TV. I remember watching in anticipation as Gareth Gates and Will Young battled out the finale, and being completely in awe of Simon Cowell.

And who could forget the first season of Survivor, where we were introduced to Richard Hatch - the winner, who is most remembered for shocking his fellow cast mates (and the viewers!) by stripping off to his birthday suit.

In The Beginning...

Remember the first season of Big Brother? I never watched the US version, but the South African first season had me cancelling plans to sit and watch a bunch of strangers eat, sleep, exercise and talk about absolute nonsense most of the time. Strange how a show can do that - but, it did and it was delicious! Unscripted, shocking, cat-fight, flirtatious drama at its best.

Other early reality TV shows that I found to be really good at the time were the Australian version of The Block - season one, Trigger Happy TV, The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser, and the first few seasons of The Amazing Race.

The Bachelor
The Bachelor

Today, there are hundreds upon hundreds of reality TV shows. There are so many, they're split into genres. These are just a few that stand out for me:

Talent Competitions

The Voice, The X-Factor, American Idol, America's Got Talent, America's Next Top Model, Project Runway and MasterChef.

Dating Shows

The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, Momma's Boys, Next and Temptation Island.

Game Shows

The Amazing Race, Survivor, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Deal or No Deal and The Weakest Link.

Celebrity Shows

Keeping up with the Kardashians, Khloe and Lamar, Newlyweds, Dirty Soap, Kimora in the fast lane, Jerseylicious and The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Reality TV is Flooding the Networks

The interest and demand for Reality TV shows over the last decade has led to an overpopulation of these shows (in my opinion.) Take the music channel - MTV, for example.

There have been days when all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and enjoy watching the latest music video hits. Instead, I've been subjected to watching Next, Made, MTV Cribs, Pimp my Ride or Punk'd. No offense to the participants or writers of these shows, but why would I want to watch a show about dating, becoming famous, extravagant mansions, cars or pranking someone on a music channel in the first place?

The cast of Dirty Soap
The cast of Dirty Soap

The Obviously Scripted "Reality" TV Shows

I've never had a problem with Reality TV shows. Yes, sure - there is some editing that takes place as with any other show, but overall there was still the expectancy that these "reality" shows were not being scripted, that they were in fact about real people going about their everyday lives in the real world.

Enter Dirty Soap.

Having been a huge Days of our Lives fan, I was beyond excited to hear about this new show. I found the first two episodes entertaining, but by the third one I'd decided that Dirty Soap was just another soap opera - certainly no reality TV show. The drawn out cat fight scenes between Kirsten Storms and Farah Fath are evidence to this statement. Tell me, who tries to repair a friendship like that? You either want to or you don't - don't draw it out for episodes on end and get every cast member involved. Last I checked this wasn't High School. It's scripted and dramatized for entertainment purposes only. The main cast members are all actors, and the show is created by two actors themselves - Kelly Rippa and husband, Mark Consuelos. It's such a pity, because I actually like one of the cast members, Nadia Bjorlin. I expected her to be another Megan Fox, but she really surprised me. Unfortunately, that's not enough to keep me hooked - the blatantly obvious over dramatic scenes of this show really let it down for me.

Of course, the real culprit of scripted reality TV has got to be none other than that of the Kardashian family.

The main show, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and their spinoffs - Khloe and Lamar, Kourtney and Khloe take Miami, and Kourtney and Kim take New York.

What makes these shows so appealing and addictive to most is the obvious factor - the beautiful Kardashian sisters; Kimberly (Kim), Khloe and Kourtney. There's simply no denying the fact that they are eye candy and great to look at, BUT they know it and for me - that's an instant turn off. Other put offs for me include the unnecessary (and often ridiculous) drama. Really, who asks their sister to wax their vajayjay in the middle of the living room? The fact that Kim can't find much else to start off her sentences other than "Like...", and the fact that almost all of them have a "Gods gift to earth" complex. I certainly don't find this show any more entertaining these days than watching the whole Brooke-Ridge-Taylor or Hope-Bo-Billie saga over and over again. Oh, and let's not even get into the whole Kim and Kris "marriage" fiasco...

The Kardashians
The Kardashians

If you could choose one reality TV show to be cancelled - that may have past it's sell by date, which would it be?

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    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Free2writ3 - It's crazy how many reality shows there are out there today, as compared to some 10 years ago! Thanks for reading and your comment :)

    • Free2writ3 profile image


      6 years ago from Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania

      Great hub..I was wondering the same thing; are they real or not.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      @rcrumple - That makes a lot of sense....I often wonder who such talented people on these sorts of shows are haven't been discovered. And now that you mention that some of them are successful in their own right, it leaves a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth. I've seen a few episodes of Ice Road Truckers - edge of seat viewing, I love it! Thanks for your comments :)

    • rcrumple profile image


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      I used to be a fan of "The Voice" and "America's Got Talent". That was before I started investigating the contestants. Turns out, most of the "amatuers" (Michael Grimm, Javier Colon, Juliet Simms, Beverley McClellan and Dia Frampton, etc) that moved on in the competition had already had released two or three albums. The real amatuers didn't have a chance. If the playing field isn't even, don't pretend it is! I do have to admit to watching Ice Road Truckers simply for the humor it presents. Good Hub!

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Sally - since I wrote this hub I've read so many more articles and blogs about reality TV. It seems as though the majority of people are just fed up with the fakeness of most of these shows, yet sometimes we can't tear ourselves away. Jerseylicious is still entertaining (though really over the top and highly doubtful that those situations happens in real life...every day!), and if it is scripted - then they are VERY good actors! But, then we get something so commercialized, overdone and way past its sell by date like the Kardshians, and I want to throw something at the TV every time one of them pops up on the screen. They give reality TV a bad name. And I 100% agree with you about the impact these shows have on teens, because they look up to these 'celebrities' - and of course, anything goes on "reality" TV. One can only hope the hype around these shows dies down soon, but sadly it's very doubtful. Thanks for your comment, appreciate the feedback!

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      It's interesting that just the other day my friend and I spent the better part of the morning on the phone discussing reality TV. We drank a lot of coffee and covered a lot of territory about which shows we like and don't. Then we got into a conversation about reality vs scripting, and, for the most part, agreed that "real" reality TV is rare. Jerseylicious "participants" claim there's no acting, no scripting, but I'm skeptical. I think that's because I've become Jama and you commented early on, the genre's become saturated. Plus, the more of these you watch, the number you get, and with the numbness, discrimination takes a back seat. What worries me is the impact this fake reality has on youngsters and teens. Huge subject! Up and interesting.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi rahul0324 - I also stopped watching American Idol properly around the time that Carrie Underwood won. Sorry, but I'm not enjoying the latest season at all - I watch bits and pieces and don't think I'll bother with next season. I agree with you - sometimes it's fun to just watch these shows (like Jerseylicious) just for the fun of it and not expecting it to be "real". Thanks for commenting!

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 

      6 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Some of the reality tv shows do appeal to me... I used to follow American Idol up to Carrie Underwood... then Big Brother...

      We have a lot of shows in India... and I believe all are scripted... most of the time.. I just watch them for the fun!

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Exactly! Think of any type of situation - domestic, home improvement, dating, cooking, cleaning, adventure, gaming, singing, acting, stand up comedy, modelling, fashion design, etc - it's ALL been done, and it's now getting just a tad boring..

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Not to be a stick in the mud, but "reality" TV holds no appeal for me. None. Especially since I know such shows came into being as a way to keep production costs at a bare minimum. Just point a camera at a bunch of nobodies who didn't have to be paid like legitimate, "name" actors and actresses. It was a novelty in the beginning, but as you pointed out, the airways have become oversaturated with it. In fact, recent polls show the popularity of "reality" TV as a genre has peaked. Hallelujah! ;D


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