By now anyone who hasn’t been affected by the new wave of reality television must definitely be living under a rock. The fact of the matter is that the reality TV genre has been around since the early days of television. This phenomenon has taken on a whole new perspective. The ubiquitous realm of reality television has entertained audiences worldwide. From the surreal and disgusting oldies of yesteryear (“Fear Factor”, “The Anna Nicole Show”) to the mainstream mainstays of cutthroat politics amid a group of opportunists looking to score a healthy payday through finances and fame (“Survivor”, “Big Brother”) there is a reality check of a peculiar kind that is certainly being reinforced in American pop culture. The distinctive influence of this brand of boob tube entertainment that threatens to devour our sensibilities is here to stay and is showing no signs of overstaying its welcome. Some may think this is a good thing while others can take it or leave it.
So here’s the million-dollar question: why is the reality television craze such a convincing impact in American media consciousness (or any other society for that matter)? Well, this can be examined in many ways from the point of view shared by the opportunistic TV producers to the millions of reality TV fanatics tuning in to witness such a sensational if not repetitive television trend. Many observers will confess an allegiance to being a complete reality TV junkie without shame. But some individuals are not as extreme as others when proclaiming their title as reality TV enthusiasts. Look, see if your fellow boob tube watcher out there would even dare to view a drenched phone book from a rainstorm for half an hour if they thought it would make for an enticing reality program worth being hypnotized over. One can only imagine.
If anything, one might attribute the lackluster and underwhelming result of scripted network television for the sudden rise of the reality television revolution. After all, how can one blame the audience’s embracing of this celebrated genre when in fact the omnipresence of repetitive dramas and tedious recycled situation comedies are dominating the airwaves ad nausea? Television executives were desperate and perplexed in trying to fill a void for the TV viewer’s disenchantment with the chosen mundane and stale prime time network programming.
It was not until the summer of 2000 that the savvy suits at the CBS-TV network decided to counter their program strategy by separating themselves from the rerun malaise in the hazy lazy days of the summertime television season. Being ever so intuitive the big brass decided to look overseas for inspiration and guidance. Soon when an unknown travelogue reality program hit the American small screen by the name of Survivor (still chugging along as it enters its fifteenth broadcast season heading into 2015) this caused an automatic dent in the armor of the TV consumer’s consciousness. Pretty soon Survivor and all its imitators rescued TV addicts from the corroding chaos that was known as the Summertime Blues of Rerun Heaven. Since then the reality TV platform and its exaggerated sideshow antics never looked back. Interestingly, the popular genre in TV reality nowadays is the over-saturation of singing competition shows for those that are getting bored with long-time ditties American Idol, The Voice and The X-Factor (whoops…cancellation claim its life recently) to name a few of these regurgitated standouts. Never fear as more of these lyrical darlings are on the way to put up the slack. Lucky us, huh?
One must have their theories as to why the reality television is so refreshingly vibrant in the appetizing graces of some TV bystanders. Well, here are some insights as to why reality TV is as desirable to the majority as a pharmacy counter is to a street junkie. Let’s go over some key points, shall we?
1.) As mentioned earlier in this article, reality television is the counter-programming alternative to relentlessly familiar and monotonous one-note options of produced sitcoms and dramas that give off an increasingly arbitrary vibe.
2.) Reality television programming, from a TV producer’s budget-friendly perspective, is cheaper to produce from a financial standpoint. Plus this kind of makeshift entertainment doesn’t require the services of highly-paid egotistical TV stars or fussy writers trying to churn out creative and challenging scripts.
3.) There is a freshness about the simplicity of reality TV that defies the conventional boundaries of the drama/comedy premise. Besides, one can exploit the rawness of ordinary people who sign up to become guinea pigs in the vast land of the pop culture medium that the boob tube conveniently affords.
4.) As an ordinary individual with visions of fame and fortune reality TV allows one to become an instant semi-celebrity with opportunities opened up that otherwise not have been there for them to take advantage of such accommodating notoriety. The recognition factor is exciting and intoxicating where a “nobody” can become a “somebody” via this venture known as the reality TV experience. Being a quasi-celebrity is certainly better than being just “another face in a drab existence” of real reality.
5.) Reality television, to a certain extent, allows one at home to wallow in the circus atmosphere that promotes good ole intrigue that include deception, greed, petty jealousies, ruthlessness, aggressiveness, antagonistic competition, embarrassment, manufactured and yes…spontaneous drama, confusion, resentment, etc. Who does not want to enjoy an entertaining televised train wreck?
Granted one could go on and discuss the pros and cons of what reality TV brings to the table in terms of judging it as a viable source of entertainment. But say what you will about its impact (positive or negative) and the questionable impression it leaves in the mindset of hungry television onlookers that crave its nutty adrenaline. The bottom line is that the fantasy of Hollywood’s creative juices are constantly taking a backseat to the reality of unorthodox entertainment meant to shock, amuse, ponder, tempt and titillate.
In the long run if the Tinseltown geniuses who control our entertainment universe continue to be clueless and not take notice of our stagnation then might we suggest that reality TV stick around a while and serve as our devilish guilty pleasure? Hey, it may not be good for you initially but at least it serves as satisfying filler more often than not, right?