Saturday 15 April 2006

The Reality of Reality Television

As with sitcoms, reality television has grown over the past decade to define its own genre. The origin of reality television owes not to shows such as Survivor or The Real World but to programs such as Candid Camera and others from the 1950s and earlier. While the definition of reality television is still in flux, most depict situations of so-called unscripted events that feature ordinary people in real life situations. It is attractive television programming for the networks that produce it, for the participants who take part in it, and for the audience who watch it. For the networks, these shows are often cheaper to produce as they command no television stars who demand big salaries. For the participants (some of whom are making a living appearing on these shows), these shows offer the thrills, the materialistic rewards, and their fifteen minutes of fame. For the audience, the motivations behind watching these shows are likely multiple. For some, it is the rush from watching competition between contestants unfolding in real time. For others, it is the buzz from cheering on the winners or the underdogs. Unfortunately, many viewers also watch these shows for the guilty pleasure of seeing participants failed, humiliated, or dejected by their peers. Misery loves company! The latter motivation is a sad reflection of the selfish human nature brought out by these television shows. We must not forget that there is really no reality in reality television. It is as artificially created and prescripted as other television genres. The only difference is that both the participants and the audience choose to be blinded from it, in exchange for a momentary escape from their real daily lives.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Play • Under World
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