These days, you cannot turn on the television without viewing an advertisement for a reality TV show. These shows cram the primetime line-up and draw ratings like crazy. What is it about them that people find so intriguing? Are we simply voyeurs, relishing in being a fly on the wall and dispassionately watching other people’s lives, or do we have a genuine desire to better understand humanity? In general, all reality TV shows involve some form of competition that fuels the fire. Prizes such as large sums of money, trips, and cars are dangled in front of contestants in order to entice them to manipulate, cheat and/or deceive their fellow contenders.
The roots of reality television
Reality television shows have been around for a long time. The so-called “granddaddy of reality homeland project free tv” was the 1940’s show Candid Camera, which filmed ordinary people reacting to pranks in unscripted situations. Game shows were in fact the first incarnation of reality television. Viewers enjoyed guessing trivia with Jeopardy, pricing items with The Price is Right, and choosing potential suitors on The Dating Game. Undoubtedly, they grew tame after a while because today edgier and more brazen shows, such as Survivor, Big Brother, and Fear Factor, have taken over.
How real is the reality?
A reality television show always begs the question; is it really real? Yes, the situations and interactions seem unscripted and candid, but are certain positions that the contestants are put in carefully manipulated to gain specific responses or reactions? Competitors in reality TV shows are thoroughly researched before being called into action – they are not randomly chosen. The producers are well-aware of the nature of their “actors”, and can speculate on how they will react in certain circumstances. This takes a lot of the “reality” out of it, and renders the whole genre slightly contrived.
The death of drama
So, are reality TV shows here to stay? Major television networks would like to think so. Not only have they experienced phenomenal ratings from these programs, but new channels have been created solely for this genre, such as Fox Reality and the UK’s Zone Reality. If reality television is here to stay, the fate of the dramatic actor will be questionable. Because the drama in reality television is non-stop, the shows are terribly addictive. The durability of reality television may just eventually obliterate the need for trained actors. No amount of talent and rehearsal can replace real-life reactions. There are scores of reality TV shows already on the air, with the numbers increasing every season. There seems to be a reality show for every topic imaginable; consequently, every viewer’s taste is satisfied.
No one can really say why the world is fascinated with reality tv. Are the shows just entertaining because of their unpredictability? Or, do they actually teach us something? Whatever the case, the genre has proven to be a force to be reckoned with and shows no sign of losing popularity. They have the world glued to the television set; therein lies the reality.