We’ve grown accustomed to watching the drama unfold of other people on live television. For some reason we’re drawn to it like bears to honey. Reality TV seems to be the norm nowadays. I remember one friend telling me that she enjoyed watching Laguna Beach because she can live vicariously through the show. I myself am not much of a fan of "Reality TV" but there are a few decent shows.
In the beginning there was Real World which is still produced today by MTV. MTV then created Road Rules which is like Real World but you travel around in an RV having to get to certain locations within a time limit. At these locations, they’re present with different and diverse challenges. On the first season of Road Rules, one challenge was in the form of a military boot camp while another challenge was to get to Madison Square Garden and get themselves on live TV during NBC’s The Today Show. Back then, both Real World and Road Rules were pretty decent shows.
But each Real World and Role Rules seasons were different. Each season would take place in a different city which mean each season had something new to present. There were some seasons that were international with some of the locations ranging from London, Paris, and the entire world. Road Rules: Semester at Sea took the seven strangers on a study abroad program where they went to various places such as Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, and Brazil. They did all sorts of tasks while balancing out study and course work. It was a fresh approach to the Road Rules series. The next season of Road Rules took an interesting twist where participants have to do various crazy missions that would not only test them physically but psychologically. Each season of Road Rules had their twists and themes which is why the show happens to still be on the air.
It’s what kept viewers glued to the TV sets.
Around 2000, CBS did something similar and aired the show known as Survivor which happens to be one of CBS’ current flag shows. It had an interesting premise where 16 survivors had to grab whatever items they can get in the water in a certain time limit. Afterwards, they would end up on an island for forty days. They’re given tasks in which they must complete. Failure to do so means you can get voted off the island.
And then they aired Big Brother where a large group of people are living in a house for a certain amount of time. They are filmed everywhere except for the bathroom. The cameras are on 24/7. Like Survivor, there are tasks assigned which must be completed. However, they’re all individually competing instead of splitting up into teams first and slowly break down into individuals. While Real World and Road Rules focused on the middle school, high school, and college groups, both Survivor and Big Brother was geared to a diverse age range.
But Reality TV wouldn’t have been commonplace today if it wasn’t for this writers’ strike that took place around 2000-2001. Writers went on strike for higher wages. Instead of giving into the demands of the writers, the network executives decided to make more Reality TV shows.
At a cost standpoint:
– Hardly any writing had to be done.
– They don’t have to pay actors.
– Network stations could outsource to outside firms for whatever thing they needed.
– It was all natural drama. Producers hired psychologists to do profiling on the contestants.
– Huge gamble banking on the success of Survivor and Big Brother
From 2001 until now, there’s been an ever increasing number of Reality TV shows. Other networks such as ABC, NBC, and FOX quickly followed suit. And then the networks accessible only through either cable or satellite started to follow suit. Most of the Reality TV shows on the air are pure garbage which a few decent shows. There’s enough themes, plots, and twists to attract viewers. I myself have been disgusted with some of the shows but couldn’t help myself but to watch. I was drawn to them. The network producers have enough psychologists to consult to create shows to attract a wide variety of viewers.
Competing networks started copying off each other. Most of the decent reality shows are pretty difficult to find. A few decent ones in my opinion were:
– Combat Missions which appealed to current and retired military, police, and Federal personel.
– Blow Out which focused around celebrity stylist Jonathan Antin and his hair salon known as "Jonathan’s."
– Who Wants to be a Superhero which is produced by Stan Lee. That in my honest opinion is one of the best reality TV shows today. Winner gets their own comic book series.
– Top Chef which focuses around chefs who want to win their own restaurant and kitchen.
– Hell’s Kitchen similar to Top Chef but with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey.
– The Ultimate Fighter.
Mainly we still like to watch Reality TV is because for some reason we enjoy seeing the worse in people. There’s a saying that "to err is human." It seems that those people on those reality shows are the most human of us all. This goes especially with reality shows with huge rewards at the end.
But the thing I feel what attracts viewers the most to these shows is the protagonist vs. the antagonist. The psychologists have done a very good job singling out the "heroes" and the "villains" from the group of contestants. The villains are the ones that we love to hate and the heroes are the ones that we love to love. In the shows there are situations where the heroes and villains struggle for the ultimate prize. The viewers are the spectators where most of them are cheering for the heroes or the underdogs. Shows like Survivor and Apprentice personify that neverending struggle between "good" and "evil." That’s a struggle that will always attract viewers.
Asides from the struggle between good and evil, there are other conflicts such as conflicts of skin color, religious preference and views, political views, stands on certain topics(Iraq, abortions, same-sex marriage, homosexuality), and various other subjects. These conflicts add to the drama and climax to those shows. And we want to stay tuned and see all tension build up until the very climatic explosion.
It always makes for good consersation during school and work most of the time. When I worked as a substitute teacher, each morning I come in I hear the teachers and administrators in their own little circles talking about what happened in last night’s episode. All these conflicts make for good gossip material. Gossip is pretty mainstream in the United States. But asides from conflicts, there are other things on the various TV shows that provides a lot of gossip material.
The second biggest thing to gossip about are romances and love triangles. We’re all watching hoping to see who and who hook up or who and who to break up. For some odd reason we like to gossip about romances, love triangles, whom cheated on whom, etc as if it was hardwired into our brains. That alone attracts a lot of female viewers. Once you see a romance blooming, you’re definitely going to hear about it the next day at either school or work. There’s almost no way to get past that. And yes, a lot of females like to gossip. Especially teenage girls. That’s going to be a total nightmare for school teachers.
Then there’s my favorite thing to gossip about, people making fools of themselves on TV. One prime example is the show with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie called The Simple Life where the two of them have to live "simplistic" lives. Once I heard about the show, it gave me a lot of gossip material. During an interview, Paris Hilton did not know what a Walmart was. To her, it was a place with walls where people hang out at. There’s a lot of people who can’t resist taking potshots at the two of them.
This is why we keep watching these shows. The network executives and producers have honed getting viewers glued to the TV sets to an artform. First few years it was a science with trial and error. Now they’re at a point where they can make shows that’ll get us hooked. Like it or not, Reality TV is here to stay. The networks make so much money off of selling commercial space that they’re not going to let their cash cows go. To the networks it rounds down to ratings. With ratings, it rounds down to the almighty dollar.