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The Reality of Reality Television

Updated on August 20, 2010
Turkish Reality Television
Turkish Reality Television

Reality TV has been one of the biggest hits across the globe, changing the way we look at television. While it isn’t a brand new concept, the dimensions that it has seen have been, previously, uncharted. While shows have been targeting audiences who are interested in unscripted programs, people around the world are rising up against the “immorality” or dilution of ethics that these programs seem to promote through their propagation.

However, to be a judge of exactly what they are meant to be, we need to take a deeper look at the path that reality TV shows have travelled since their beginning. There is little doubt that each person is entitled to their own view and the views that reality TV shows have created are quite opposite, and extreme.

The History of Reality

Reality TV shows began in the 1940s, and were adapted as extensions to the candid microphone programs that were gaining popularity on radio. Picking up from the concept of capturing people’s reactions, on microphone, when a prank is played on them, television channels decided to bring in “Candid Camera”! Hosted by Allen Hunt, the show rose in popularity, incredibly fast, and was noted more for ushering in a new form of television that depended on people and their lives.

Soon, game shows became popular with people coming on TV to showcase their skills in quizzes, puzzle-solving games and all sorts of other games that dealt with exposing the reality behind people’s lives. Truth or Consequences brought in practical jokes, stunts and weird competitions that required people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise.

Throughout the 40s and 50s, reality television focussed on talent shows, quizzes and small-time shows inviting people to humiliate them. Through the next era, the focus remained the same as families and relationships also jumped into the fray. People started meeting and dating people on reality television shows while marriages and divorces also began taking shape.

Slowly, the shape of reality television has truly become distorted! There is a large emphasis on making people fight, create scandals, take pot-shots, make racist and religious comments as well as simply create unethical content at the expense of other participants. Back-stabbing and selfishness, characteristics that many have tried to dispel from society, are highlighted as people step on each other to get to the prize money.

From eating bugs to each other, people are willing to go to any extent in the hope of getting their hands on some of that money on sale. The price, is just a little dignity!

How Real is Real?

For many years now, large sections of society have scorned the idea of television spoiling the image of humankind in the eyes of children and those being exposed to these shows. It is widely understood that while in some areas, such shows are absolutely necessary, regular life doesn’t require testing and humiliation that such reality shows provide.

  • In the field of politics, there is a dire need for discussions and debates on topics that pertain to the entire populous. Such discussions are encouraged, probably, by all parts of society and not just those that are directly affected by it. Society cannot do without such discussions!
  • However the problem arises when people start discussing the likes of profitability from such shows. If held in public interest, these reality TV shows should be devoid of any money-making scheme for the producer as well as the people involved.
  • In most cases, the objection comes against the “reality” being displayed in these television shows. People have often claimed, without much proof it must be said, that some reality television shows have been scripted and performed by actors. Wrestling is one of the highest paying sports in the world, it is an example of an attempt at reality secretly controlled through scripts and stunts.
  • Despite repeated claims of the industry stating that the show is “real”, there are just too many obvious give-aways as well as numerous claims by former wrestlers who state that matches and story-lines in the show are pre-empted and pre-decided to enhance people’s support for particular characters in the area. This not just raises ratings on television but also brings people to their shows, giving them more money through corporate sponsorships and gate & merchandise sales.
  • The possibility that reality television shows are scripted has been cited by many people in the industry, including the likes of Daniel Petrie, Jr., former president of the Writers Guild of America, west. According to Petrie, these so called “reality shows” are as scripted as anything else on television.

Why are Reality TV Shows So Popular?

Life changing: Some contestants believe the shows they appeared in enhanced their lives.
Life changing: Some contestants believe the shows they appeared in enhanced their lives.
  • In some shows, there is a “controlled” environment within which people are expected to show real-life situations. Shows like Survivors or Big Brother put people into an artificially created environment wherein they are required to perform tasks within controlled scenarios. There is careful selection of participants to ensure a clash in characters, as well as create situations to make people clash against each other on the show.
  • Editing also plays a major role as what really happens isn’t always what people see. In shows, producers are known to edit the dialogue exchanges as well as scenes in special ways so as to present a particular person, or persons, in certain light on the show. There is another known phenomena of changing the chronology of events, through editing, to make them appear more “juicy” to the watching audience.
  •  On many occasions, there have been restaging of incidents that may have occurred off-camera or may have been missed due to technical issues. As a result, there is frequent replay of incidents in the same way, or in scripted ways, to produce the kind of effect the producers desire.
  • The producers also make a huge difference in the outcome of these reality TV shows. In shows like A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, producers made the show’s host choose a different winner than what she really wanted. The prizes can also change from during the show to that at completion. Americas Next Top Model, Adrianne Curry, went on to say that the modelling contract offered to her, upon winning the show, was nowhere near what was promised to her during the duration of the show.
  • Many people, especially children, have been hit by a major bug of being famous instantly, with these reality shows. This has led to the creation of overnight-celebrities who have vanished after their 15 minutes of fame. However, they have been unable to bounce out of that sudden loss of attention and many, over the years, have ruined their lives by being has-beens. While very few have actually been able to continue their careers on television, most people, especially children, find it hard to cope with their loss of stardom.

harlie Brooker's Screenwipe - Reality TV Editing

Kelly Ripa & Mel B Talk New TLC Reality Shows
Kelly Ripa & Mel B Talk New TLC Reality Shows

Why We Do It?

Many analysts have come, over the years, and stated their reasons for why people watch such reality shows and why the popularity of such shows just seems to be on a constant uphill climb. While most analysts truly believe that the shows sell because people like to see other “average Joes” do things that they would have wanted to, but were scared to do; the reality is probably quite the contrary.

It is widely understood, through various studies, that people enjoy watching others humiliate themselves while sitting comfortably in front of their television sets. The fact that their embarrassing moments aren’t being captured and put on television, or that they are unlikely to have the capability to do what those on TV are capable of, makes people enjoy these shows even more.

The use of children on such shows has also come in for severe criticism, especially from child psychologists who unanimously believe that such shows and, later, ineffective guidance by parents leaves children scarred, in some form, for the rest of their normal lives. Many children have trouble getting back to their normal lives and most drop out of schools and never go back.

Parents also continue to pressurize their children to follow career-paths that they would not have otherwise,chosen. Psychiatrists have termed the usage of children as exploitation by all other parties who agree to have them in such a situation.

Whether reality TV is popular with audiences or not, there is little doubt that it is here to stay. People enjoy watching mud-slinging, especially when it is between two regular people who aren’t celebrities, yet. The whole idea of having something that isn’t scripted can be quite interesting to those looking for juicy gossip and brainless television. However, if you do decide to stick to watching reality shows then perhaps a quiz show is the one to go for, something that will allow you and your family learn something more valuable.

Fashion in Reality TV: America's Next Top Model
Fashion in Reality TV: America's Next Top Model

How Much Do Reality TV Stars Get Paid?

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    5 years ago

    Hello! bdaafgb interesting bdaafgb site! I'm really like it! Very, very bdaafgb good!

  • FindMyTeenFashion profile image


    8 years ago

    Awesome hub!! We are going to be remembered as the reality TV generation.


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