Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reality TV? The Biggest Loser? Us.

The first 'reality tv program' is now considered to be Candid Camera first broadcast in 1948 (although the Original Amateur Hour also debuted in that year).  Allen Funt would play a practical joke on someone and film it.  The next reality tv program was Wanted, which talked to victims and law enforcement officials about crimes and criminals. 

The last two decades have seen a huge escalation in reality shows ranging from funny to exciting to disgusting.  And television audiences are eating them up.  Networks can't seem to put enough reality shows on the air.  Not all of them succeed, but more and more are added every season.

Networks love the shows because they are much less expensive than scripted television: Situation Comedies, Police Procedurals, and night-time Dramas.  Some people call these programs 'unscripted television', but note that some of these shows have more scripting that they want you to know.  Bachelor, for example, uses a loose framework for a script.  I have a cousin who appeared on a early season of the Bachelor and said they were not free to make all of their own choices.

Reality shows are here to stay.  They have and will evolve over time, but there will never again be a night on television that does not have several reality programs showing.

Here is a brief list of notable reality shows:

Documentary style:
They give us a glimpse into what it takes to do a profession and can make for dramatic or voyeuristic television.  I understand these.  They are like National Geographic documentaries on various subjects.  They just happen to be the same subjects each week.
- Deadliest catch
- Cops
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Game shows:
These shows can be fun (Survivor) or dumb (Biggest Loser) or educational (Cooking).  And American Idol continues the long road that started with the Original Amateur Hour, thru The Gong Show, and Star Search.
- Survivor
- Biggest Loser
- Cooking
- Last Comic Standing
- The Apprentice
- American Idol

Marriage shows:
A type of reality television that I hope will soon run its course.  'Falling in love' on national television in some sort of perverted courtship while millions watch?  Please.  Shoot me now.
- Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire?
- Bachelor/Bachelorette

Living together shows:
Ultimate voyeur with no redeeming or entertainment value.  "Come on Honey, let's go watch the roomates swear at each other and make stupid remarks.  I feel sooo much better after watching one of these.  Because I am not them."
- The Real World
- Wife Swap

I have seen at least one episode of everthing listed above (except The Real World and Wife Swap).  I even watched an entire season of Survivor once when my office had a weekly pool on who would be 'voted off the island' each week.  But there is nothing about most of these shows I find remotely appealing.  Even the Documentary style shows are good for one or two weeks' viewing, at best.

Yes, the world turns on the fact that there is something for everyone.  But why does it have to be ridiculous Bachelorette shows?

I'll continue to do what I do:  not watch these insipid programs and read a book or work around the house or create a new family video.

List of reality television programs (Wikipedia)

Reality TV News (Reality TV World)

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