By now anyone who has not 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. Speaking from an American point of view this phenomenon has taken on a whole new perspective. The ubiquitous realm of reality television has entertained audiences worldwide. From the surreal and disgusting (yesteryear’s fare such as “Fear Factor”, “The Anna Nicole Show”) to the mainstream adventure of cutthroat politics amid a group of opportunists looking to score a healthy payday through finances and fame (“Survivor”, “Big Brother”), there’s a reality check that’s certainly being reinforced. The 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 either take it or leave it.
So here’s the million-dollar question: why is the reality television craze have such a convincing impact in American pop culture? (or any other society for that matter). Well, this can be examined in many ways from the point of view of the TV producers to the millions of reality TV fanatics who tune in to witness such a sensational viewing. I will confess that I, much like countless others, am a reality TV junkie but up to a certain point. I have my favorite selections that I track down like a pot-bellied hunter looking to gun down an innocent duck in a marsh. But I am not as extreme as those reality TV enthusiasts out there who would watch a drenched phone book for half an hour if they thought it would make for an enticing reality program worth being hypnotized over.
If anything, I attribute the lackluster and underwhelming result of network television for the sudden rise of the reality television sensationalism. After all, how can one blame the audience’s embracing of this celebrated genre when in fact the ubiquitous mainstay of repetitive dramas and tedious recycled situation comedies are dominating the airwaves ad nausea? Clearly, television executives were desperate and perplexed in trying to fill a void for the TV viewer’s disenchantment with mundane and stale prime time network programming.
It wasn’t 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 TV season. Being ever so intuitive the big brass decided to look overseas for inspiration and guidance. Soon a little program would hit the American small screen by the name of “Survivor”. This phenomenon caused an automatic major dent in the armor of the TV watcher’s entertainment consciousness. Pretty soon “Survivor” and all its imitators rescued bored TV addicts from the corroding chaos that was known as the Summertime Blues of Rerun Heaven. Since then, however, the reality TV sideshow never looked back.
One must have their theories as to why the reality television is so refreshingly vibrant in the appetizing graces of some TV bystanders. Well, I am about to offer some insight as to why I think reality TV is as desirable to the majority as a pharmacy counter is to a drug abuser. Let’s go over some key points, okay?
1.) As mentioned earlier in this article reality television is the counter-programming alternative to the relentlessly familiar and monotonous one-note options of produced sitcoms and dramas that give off an arbitrary vibe.
2.) Reality television programming (from a TV producer’s perspective) is cheaper to produce from a financial standpoint. Plus this kind of throwaway 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 wasteland of televised pop culture.
4.) As an ordinary individual with visions of fame and fortune reality TV allows one to become an instant pseudo-celebrity with opportunities opened up that they would otherwise not have been there for them to take on those advantages. The recognition factor is exciting and intoxicating where a “nobody” can become an instant “a somebody” via this venture known as reality TV. Being a quasi-celebrity is certainly better than being just “another face in a drab existence”, right?
5.) Reality television, to a certain extent, allows one at home to share 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.
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 cheesy impact 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 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 delightful guilt pleasures? Hey, it may not be good for you initially but it at least serves as satisfying filler in the meantime…sort of like desiring a salty potato chip over a celery stick.
**NOTE: For more reality television input, please feel free to refer to the following venues for more feedback: Reality News Online (http://www.realitynewsonline.com) and Sir Linksalot.net: Reality TV Show Links (http://www.sirlinksalot.net/realitytelevision.html).