Many of us have become addicted to reality television ever since Survivor led the airwaves over a decade ago. In the world of interactive television, we were challenged to see if we could fend off the elements, real and perceived, and make it to the million dollar finish line. That particular show gained millions of viewers and continues to this day. What is so intriguing about these shows anyway? Whatever it is, something is working because lots of “nobodies” are becoming pseudo-celebrities and earning nice change as a result of their performances on these shows.
There is something for everyone in the mad, mad world of reality television but when is enough, enough? Our minds are becoming intoxicated with sex, drugs and rock & roll. Two years ago, Bill Carter, writer for NYTimes.com cited “in a recent poll by TiVo, television viewers said they were growing tired of reality shows, with 40 percent calling reality the most overdone genre of programming. (Suspense was the viewers’ favorite.)” I suppose it doesn’t matter whether or not reality shows are overdone, various sources indicate the majority of the American population tunes into one or more reality shows daily.
A self-proclaimed site for fans of reality TV shows, http://www.realitytvfans.com/ offers the latest details on 130 reality TV programs; I think I recognize maybe half of them. Feel free to check out their website for the list. It’s mind-boggling.
What do these statistics reveal about reality shows and the people who watch them? In actuality, they are somewhat similar to news programs, sports or documentaries. They excite, confuse, frustrate, enlighten and give us cause for concern. Contrary to popular belief however, reality shows are scripted and the bottom line for networks is the same as for other shows: ratings. Several reality shows may be regarded beneficial such as The Biggest Loser. People actually do lose a tremendous amount of weight on that program. Yet this show can also be considered exploitive. There is a stigma attached to obesity which the participants are cognizant of.
Are these shows meant to be entertaining and if so, shouldn’t they be considered comedies? Do they offer viewers a chance to explore the uninhibited side of society without actually crossing a moral or ethical line themselves? For example, if you are an avid Jersey Shore follower (I couldn’t help myself), does that mean you must be either Italian, vulgar, a sex fiend, obsessive about your appearance or obnoxious? Maybe those terms should reflect the Housewives series instead. Is it correct to assume someone is a budding chef when they throw copious amounts of food together in a frying pan, while cursing out others on their television culinary team?
I’m curious how many of these shows are good for children to watch. We all know that parents cannot be at our children’s side 24 hours a day. Many parents have reacted to hearing something on both network and cable television that was not meant for young ears. Has society become so immune to what happens on TV that we’ve thrown in the towel? Are there any viewers left who don’t watch some form of cable television, whether in their homes, on their computers or smartphones, which contains graphic violence, nudity or inappropriate language?
I’m going off on a tangent now. Almost daily, I’ll come across an article or hear a story about a reality “star” whose only claim to fame is their ability to make a fool of themselves in front of millions of viewers. YouTube does a great job with that too although it may not be as profitable as reality TV and may even prove to be detrimental. I don’t have that much free time to spend in front of a television and when I do, I want it to make sense. That leaves out all the political coverage for this coming election (just kidding). I get tired of watching sexcapades and listening to belligerent people screaming at one another. But that’s just me. And I’ve been told I’m “old.” Ha, maybe that’s the reason I often don’t get the point of reality shows. Right.
When it’s so easy to make a buck off of stupidity or self-centeredness in today’s society, there’s no doubt reality TV will be around for a long time to come. Even long running, well-respected broadcast news programs are beginning to resemble reality shows. If this is a sign of things to come, I’d better refer back to my copy of Nostradamus, pray I sleep through December 21, 2012 or get ready to build an ark.
“Some days I’m Uncle Situation, other days I’m Dr. Situation, I’m Chef Situation.. Bang Your Girl Situation… I’m like a pretty deep dude.” ~ Best Quote of Jersey Shore Season 3, Episode 8