Reality TV. It’s Really Real… Really! Isn’t It?

September 11, 2014
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Do you watch a reality show? No, of course you don’t. At least, you won’t admit to it, because nobody ever does. Instead, we scoff at reality TV. Real, my ass (which is real, unlike Kim Kardashian’s humungous rear. Seriously. Where does she get that thing inflated? Is there enough helium in the world?). But somebody must be watching these shows – indeed, lots of somebodies – because the schedules are stuffed full of them. And it arguably started with the Kardashians, who we are apparently supposed to want to keep up with. I honestly have no idea why.

The Kardashians may be the most visible face of the reality TV craze. You’ve got to hand it to momma Kris, she sure knows how to handle PR. Her bloody family are all over the place. But theirs is far from the only ‘reality’ show polluting the airwaves. Should you wish to, you can watch shows on baking, sewing, dancing, fishing, surgery, towing, bail bondsmen, tree houses, pawn shops, selling houses to nudists (yes, really) – and on and on, ad infinitum. I could have filled this entire piece just listing the different shows. There are hundreds of the damn things on every single day.

Reality TV. It's Really Real... Really! Isn't It?

Now, nobody’s really fooled into thinking that these shows justify the title ‘real’. We all know they’re far from spontaneous and are edited to make good television. That’s good in the sense of eye-catching, rather than quality. And there we have the crux of so-called reality TV. It grabs attention. It’s a voyeuristic view into other people’s lives. Which makes me wonder: are our own lives so boring that we need to spend our leisure time gawping at other people? Are reality shows actually a modern zoo, where we can sit and stare at the captive animals?

I suspect that the truth is far more simple. Reality shows make cheap TV. Now that we have so many channels, they have to be filled with something. Producers can quickly cobble together a show without needing actors or a decent script. And people watch them, because that’s pretty much all there is. So the networks show more, because people watch them. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps we need to have a cull, so there aren’t so many channels to fill and decent programs are in the majority once more. I think I might pitch that idea. Show Killer … coming soon.

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