I find the recent emergence of so-called
"reality" shows very intriguing. Though the ratings have so far been
inconsistent for the new reality-based shows, I can bet that - as we're shoved
into Rerun Hell - the ratings will improve.
I believe it all started with MTV's Real World
- where a group of young strangers are thrown together in a house and cameras
follow their every move as they fight, bond, fall in love or whatever. I never
cared for any of these, as they always seemed...well, contrived and
phoney. Other than reality shows like Cops and similarly-veined crime
reality fare, there really weren't any other real life[-like] programs for a
long time. Suddenly, Making the Band emerged (was canceled; then
returned), followed quickly by Survivor. PBS also proffered its own
3-part reality show, 1900 House (though it appears to be much less
exploitative than the other network offerings) and a show called Big Brother
is in the wings. Given the penchant for networks to idiotically clone successful
themes, you can bet there will be more such programs before the dust settles.
Even though the premiere episode of Survivor
couldn't topple the stranglehold of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? , when
it's not slotted against the mega-hit, the ratings are outstanding. It's not
really "good" television (more like "exploitative"
television); the people generally come across as unlikable and phony; it is
almost laughable in its overly-dramatic "rituals"...and yet, I find
myself drawn; sucked-in almost against my will and taking sides (I actually
gloated when that stuck-up bitch Stacey was voted off). Why is that?
Is it just that first-run programs are so scarce
now that we'll watch anything new? Or perhaps they provide us with guilty
voyeuristic pleasure. Or maybe they simply confirm our convictions that we're
better people than they are. I watch both Making the Band and Survivor
and actually feel ashamed that I enjoy them (though my interest in Making the
Band has waned since it became so short and choppy); in fact I look forward
to them [blush]. But I'm obviously not alone...
I wonder what the networks will come up with next?
How about a group of strangers tossed together on a boat and forced to survive
on nothing but what they can catch from the sea (can't you just see it now)? Or
a family on summer vacation and the resulting vicious fights that are sure to
ensue (bring back memories, anyone?). Or how about putting people out of their
element - like Bill Gates being forced to live on the average American salary
for six months; a pampered celebrity switching places with someone who lives
below the poverty line...I'd be sure to watch something like that!
But television is not known for true originality,
so we're probably doomed to watch endless variations of people cooped up
together in a house/condo/apartment/shack, or stranded on a tropical island/dude
ranch/mountain top, or seeking stardom as dancers/singers/actors/comedians. Sigh...
would love to know what you think, sound off on the
boards and let us know what you think!