Reality Television: Another Fad Our Generation Loves

The Real World, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, The Mole, American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, and Project Runway, all of these shows are prime examples of the many different varieties of reality television shows currently airing in this day and age. People love their reality television shows, no matter which one it is. There are a variety of different reasons as to why people prefer to watch shows like Big Brother and Survivor than other shows on television. Sophomore Christina Naessans believes that it is because of the fact that the people seem more real than an actor playing the role of a character on another show. “I think it may be the fact that they show real people in real situations, unlike people playing a pre-written part in a pre-written story. I think this allows more people to be able to relate to them, and watch them grow or fall. They can put themselves in those same situations,” stated Naessans.Despite its recent popularity in the modern culture, the idea originated from a few radio series in the late 1940’s and the mid 1950’s. Candid Camera made its television debut in 1948 where it would air ordinary people reacting to different pranks with no scripts. Before it became a television success though, Candid Microphone was the radio show in which people reacted to different pranks except through a microphone. In 1955, there was a radio series known as Nightwatch that recorded the daily lives of police officers in Culver City, California. The first reality show in the modern sense was the PBS show An American Family which aired in 1973. Twelve episodes were aired in the United States and the show’s premise was a nuclear family in Santa Barbara, California that was going through a horrible divorce. In 1991, The Jerry Springer Show made its debut and the show tried to present real-life drama within the usual talk show format. The twist was that the producers brought in guests that were most likely to conflict on the set. Then in 1992, we saw the launch of MTV’s reality sensation, The Real World in which it features seven strangers picked to live in a house in different cities and countries throughout the world and have their lives taped. The Real World was one of the first reality shows to gain a national audience. There are several different types of reality shows that are prevalent on our television sets. The documentary-style is when the camera follows people going about their daily lives and routines. An example of this would be MTV’s recent smash hit Laguna Beach and The Hills. Perhaps the most popular style of reality television is the reality game show style. Under this category would fall the many different shows on the air today: American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Dancing With The Stars, Big Brother, Survivor, The Amazing Race. The dynamics of these shows are simple: One team or person out to win a common goal or prize with several others being eliminated along the way. Another reason why people may like reality shows in our generation is the fact that they can control the outcome of what happens. For instance, junior Brittney Parks loves voting on American Idol to keep her favorite singer on the show. “One thing that is appealing about shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars is that the viewing audience has the chance to participate and affect the outcome. The audience at home gets to vote as many times as they want all the way until the very end,” said Parks. With reality television though, a lot of drama is thrown out to keep the viewers interested and entertained throughout the program. Whether its Survivor castaways not getting along, or Real Worlders’ fighting with each other, or Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson nearly punching one another on American Idol, sometimes scripted and forced drama is enough to lure more and more viewers in. The main question is why people watch these shows week in and week out. Sophomore Travis Stallings believes that people watch for the entertaining factor and for the fact that he can put himself in the person’s position on the show. “I think people watch reality shows and say to themselves, ‘Hey that can be me.’ I mean anyone can get on a reality show; you don’t really need any acting experience, just a good personality or a good story behind you,” said Stallings. Reality television is a growing sensation in popular culture and has continued, and will continue to grow in popularity. Stallings feels that people will most likely continue watching reality television shows because of the fact that the premises of the programs will keep people entertained enough to keep on going. “What’s popular on TV has always gone in cycles, and in my opinion it always will. Reality shows are hot right now, but in 10 years it will undoubtedly be something different that everyone will watch,” stated Stallings.