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Reality Shows - Facts and Effects
Reality Shows are genre of television shows or programmes which feature common people and or celebrities or both, in real life or scripted situations/environment or a mix of both real and scripted incidents. Reality Shows are also referred as ‘Reality Television’. Reality shows have become quite a rage of late; these were non-existent until the 1940’s. Reality shows in those times were quite authentic. This was because it was a new concept and as such manipulation was limited to only creating unordinary situations for ordinary citizens. However, the reality shows of today have blurred the reality. The irony of ‘Reality Shows’ is that even though they are known as ‘Reality Based Shows’; most of them are ‘Unreal’.
Facts of Reality Shows
History of Reality T.V.
Types of Reality Shows
Effects of Reality Shows
Reality Television Pros and Cons
Reality Shows Advantages
Reality Shows Disadvantages
Curbing or Limiting the Effects of reality Shows
Real Life is nothing, what popular Reality Shows depict. The idea of placing people in situations, just to see how they react, became imaginable and almost ‘Passé’. Audiences have seen and known what will happen. As such, previous projections of human behaviour do not hold that much ground as compared to the ones that are being churned out with all the melodrama and unexpected spoofs or stunts. Real Life on day to day basis is not as much Dramatic and entertaining as is depicted in these shows. Life is very much real as we witness it, not what we are made to see. Reality shows edit and manipulate scenes which appear and imitate reality. The situations created or occurred are altered in order to make things interesting. To sustain the interest of the audience, producers of such shows resort to depiction of emotions which incite humans. Thus, conflict, drama, sleaze and humour are added as per the TRP. These may not be scripted but depending upon the response of these audiences, these maybe added as per the requirement. Such shows will create an exciting footage from various clips mixed with each other. Sometimes, the producers of the show will involve a celebrity to create hype for the show.
So, a question arises what, when, why, where and how of these shows. There are many reasons behind it. These have been analysed below.
Reality Shows – Facts
Facts of Reality television have been subdivided into its History, Popularity Factors and their Types.
History of Reality T.V.
It was during 1948, that Alan Funt, came up with the idea of the first Reality Show in the form of TV series ‘Candid Camera’. It was initially launched as Radio Show, titled – ‘Candid Microphone’ on 28th June, 1947. Later, he shot a series of theatrical film shorts, also titled Candid Microphone. It was his next venture that materialised into the ‘First Reality Show’ which appeared on television (ABC channel) on August 10, 1948. The show featured ordinary people encountering unusual situations, who were being secretly taped with concealed cameras. Sometimes, these would involve trick props, such as a desk with drawers that pop open when closed or a car with a hidden extra gas tank. When the joke was revealed, victims would be told the shows catch phrase, ‘Smile, you're on Candid Camera.’ Peter Funt, his son became the producer and the host of the show from 1998 to 2004.
Soon others too conceived similar ideas with different approach. Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts also appeared during 1948. These show started the much famed ‘Talent Shows’ or ‘Talent Search Shows’ which featured amateur competitors and introduced the concept of ‘Audience Voting’. In the 1950s, game shows – ‘Beat the Clock’ and ‘Truth or Consequences’ involved contestants in wacky competitions, stunts, and practical jokes. Then, appeared the ‘Game Show’, known as ‘You Bet’ on NBC-TV in October 1950, which was simultaneously broadcast on the radio and the television. In 1954, ‘Miss America Pageant’, a beauty contest appeared on T.V. whose winner achieved the status of a national celebrity. During 1950-1959, a new type of series ‘You Asked For It’ had some elements of a ‘Audience Participation’ in the sense that viewers were given certain freedom to see what they wished to see on television. The show created and hosted by Art Baker, involved the ‘Real Re-enactment’ of William Tell shooting an apple off his son's head. Many other reality based shows featured on T.V., like series Seven Up! in UK. during 1964 (Granada Television).
However, the Shows with the flavour of Modern Reality Shows started to be produced during the 1970’s. PBS series ‘An American Family’ was more or less documentary in purpose and style. It featured the daily lives of the Loud family. The televised decision of the parents to divorce and the on-screen coming out of their gay son shocked audiences. This prompted the sociologist, Margaret Mead to suggest a different genre for this series as it didn’t fit the category of Documentary. This show gave birth to the ‘Reality-soap Genre’ in which compelling story lines through careful writing and editing shaped the real-life subjects into reality-show characters. In 1974, a counterpart program, The Family, was made in the UK, following the working class Wilkins family of Reading. Similar such productions were ‘Chuck Barris: The Dating Game’, ‘The Newlywed Game’, and ‘The Gong Show’. These participants shared some of their privacy and dignity in a televised competition.
Then, there were ‘Camcorder Taped’ reality shows which appeared during 1989. First of such a show was ‘COPS’ which showed police officers on duty apprehending criminals. The Rescue 911 was another such show which featured people in dire situations and their efforts. America’s Funniest Home Videos was also such reality show in terms of recording equipment. It featured unique and funny incidents taped on camcorder. Further themes of reality shows were conceived in the 1990’s. The concept of grouping strangers for a certain period of time in a certain environment and the drama that followed, originated in the form of series ‘Nummer 28’. It aired on Dutch television in 1991. This show was backed by computer-based non-linear editing systems which enabled quick editing of hours of video footage into a usable form. The idea of ‘Competition and Elimination’ was introduced by TV producer Charlie Parsons. He created the TV show ‘Expedition Robinson’, which first aired in 1997 in Sweden. In the show cast members/contestants battled against each other and were removed from the show until only one winner remained. These shows became popularly known as ‘Elimination Shows’.
The end of 90’ and the advent of 2000, saw an unprecedented popularity of the reality based shows. These new generation of Reality shows were more blunt, witty, sensuous, sensational, glamorous and more. These were produced by specialists who created complex and unexpected shows which stirred the emotions of the masses. Their uniqueness and the ‘Awe’ factor made them a huge success. Survivor became such a show. It was originally named ‘Expedition Robinson’ and appeared first on the Swedish public service network SVT in 1997. Then, ‘Big Brother’ first televised in the Netherlands during 1999 on the Veronica TV channel became a world-wide sensation. It was picked up by Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Portugal, USA, UK, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Indonesia. It is a hit show in almost 70 countries; further licensing rights for same format program but with regional people. Example, ‘Big Boss’ in India. Another major hit is ‘American Idol’. It is based on the British show Pop Idol, which was in turn inspired by Popstars. The show debuted in 2001 in Britain and soon spread to other parts of the world, with its Indian Version, known as ‘Indian Idol’. Soon more shows followed with different concepts and ideas like the Amazing Race (2001), Fear Factor (June 11, 2001), the America's Next Top Model (May 2003), The Apprentice (2004), Dancing With The Stars (2005) and others. These all became an instant hit all over the world and inspiring licensed version and unlicensed altered shows in dozens of countries. Furthermore, these shows inspired channels totally devoted to reality shows, like Zone Reality (UK) was launched in 2002 and Global Reality Channel (Canada) was launched in 2010. Several cable channels started featuring original reality programming as a mainstay. Thus, today various types of reality shows have got a permanent slot during their telecast. The reality series of modern times borrow a lot from their precedents and differ mostly in scope and locale.
Popularity Factors of Reality Shows
So what makes Reality Shows Tick? There are multiple factors attributing to the success of these shows.
Human Curiosity – There is saying that says ‘Curiosity killed the cat’, here the ‘Curiosity lured the Public’. Though not as deadly as the original saying but alluring, that is to say that the public is always willing to know the unknown or the mysteries. Of all the entertainment series we are aware of, we think that’s the end of it. However, the brainy producers are always up to new tricks, they introduce new formats, new faces and other unexplored or unimaginable acts. Anything new or different is obviously bound to be noticed, the same goes with reality shows. Such shows engross and tease the mind into watching them. This is one important ingredient of a reality show.
Entertainment Value – Watching the mundane soap operas and movies causes the mind to get bored. It is here that reality shows score over other programs. They are filled with drama, shock value, original stunts, talent, celebrities, laughter, sleaze and violence. It fills the void of human mind bored with conventionally formatted programs. Some series featuring original acts are applauded because here someone with the best talent gets acknowledged, appreciated and paid. Here, they see what they haven’t realised or imagined, especially the one’s which are dramatic. Even if the audience is aware of the manipulations, they don’t mind it as it adds spice and zing to their lives, which is otherwise dull and dreary. Also, they like to be acknowledged for their prediction of the outcome or can gossip about it with their friends and so on.
Aggressive Marketing – One of the major factors of the popularity of reality television is the aggressive marketing. This marketing is clearly visible in Television promos, large hoardings, cover story in magazines and other media. It grabs the attention of even a an uninterested person and that is what the advertisers want and that is what influences us in to watching these programs.
Belief in Reality Shows – Though the public is smart but it can be fooled. Reality shows are an example of this occurrence. There are certain sections of viewers who still believe that what is being shown is ‘Reality’ as it matches the normal daily life routines. This notion becomes a permanent fact in their minds and they find it hard to dismiss it as fake. Then there are young minds which do not have the wider scope of thought as to ‘What is real?’ and ‘What is not?’. They perceive the fake acts as real and the shows become their favourite ones.
Favourites and Non Favourites – Whilst watching certain such shows we tend to have our ‘Favourites’ and ‘Non-Favourites’. We like our favourite ones for variety of reasons; some are cute, some appear honest, some are form their own region or religion and some are sympathised. On the opposite side we hate certain participants for variety of reasons; some are ugly, some appear fake, some don’t belong to their region or religion and some we simply love hate. Our emotional attachment with these characters is the source of popularity of these shows.
Thirst for Power – The concept of voting for favourite ones is sort of quencher of thirst for power hungry people. They think that their vote is a contributing factor in the victory of their chosen one. It makes them feel important, related to whom they are voting and self satisfaction of having some power or certain portion of power.
Pleasure in other’s Sufferings – There are some demented minds who like to see other people in pain and gore. It gives them certain euphoria which they get addicted to. The causes can be many; some can relate to the pain which they have suffered or the pain which they want to deliver to their oppressors but haven’t been able to do so. It provides them a certain outlet of emotions.
Peer Influence – Some people just watch these shows just to stay in tune with the current flow of trend. They stay in touch with these shows so they have something to talk about whenever a conversation occurs or whenever they are socialising. It is embarrassing for certain people to be unaware of what’s hip and what’s not.
Types of Reality Shows
Reality shows cater to different age groups and tastes because of the wide range of themes available.
These shows can be classified into:
1. Reality T.V. Talent Shows – A reality based talent show is ‘Made for Television’ program which is televised live or deferred live featuring a number of participants who present their talent or talents in front of a panel of judges. These talents can be in the conventional forms like singing, dancing and or other unique forms of talents. Most of these shows have a format where certain performers are selected and judged. Based on the quality of their performance, these are either eliminated out of the competition by judges or by the public through voting. Each week or each episode one or more contestants are eliminated until a winner emerges. Reality based talent shows are the most popular reality television shows. These are the most popular as these present a much authentic presentation as compared to others which can be easily pointed out as fake. Some of the most popular reality shows of this type are American Idol, America's Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, Celebrity Duets etc. These maybe licensed to other countries which work on the same format to produce a local show like ‘India’s Got Talent’ is the Indian version of AGT.
2. Fly on the Wall Shows – Fly on the Wall Shows are those shows which are styled in a documentary format but maybe scripted partially or wholly to create sensationalism; camera shooting and footage editing gives the viewer the impression that they are passive observers following people going about their daily personal and professional activities. These are known as ‘Fly on the Wall Shows’ as events are seen candidly, as a fly on a wall might see them. These shows are also known as factual television shows as they do show some actual happenings.
Some of these types of shows are:
Environment Confined – These are live or deferred live televised shows, where a number of familiar or unfamiliar participants have to live along with each other and perform tasks in an artificial living environment surrounded by cameras at strategic spots. Every day they are given a task to perform and their behaviour is recorded. Every week or every episode voting is conducted wherein the members nominate each other depending upon their preferences or task performance. These nominated members are further put to vote by public until a winner emerges. The winner is awarded a large sum of amount. Participants are often interviewed, often by an off-camera voice. The ancestor of these types of shows is MTV’s ‘The Real World’. The most popular amongst these shows is ‘Big Brother’ with different versions produced in many countries around the word. Some other shows in this category are ‘Road Rules’, ‘The 1900 House’, ‘Temptation Island’, ‘U8TV: The Lofters’ etc.
Celebrity Shows – Reality based Celebrity Shows are the ones which show daily routine of celebrities or show celebrities in a certain environment with other celebrities performing task or tasks. These show some scripted, unscripted, kinky or unknown aspect of celebrities. Some routine based shows are Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kathy Griffin: Life on the D List, The Anna Nicole Show, The Osbournes, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica and Hogan Knows Best etc. Some of the Environment Confined shows are Celebrity Big Brother, The Simple Life, Tommy Lee Goes to College, The Surreal Life, and I'm a Celebrity... Get Me out of Here!
Based on Professional Lives - Professional Lives is type of a reality based show which shows professionals either going about day-to-day business or performing an entire project over the course of a series. These shows unseen footage of a professional on day to day basis, thereby providing an insight into the life of professionals engaged in different occupations. The first of its kind series is COPS which premiered in 1989. Other examples of this type of reality show include the American shows Miami Ink, The First 48, Dog the Bounty Hunter, American Chopper, Deadliest Catch etc.
3. Game Shows – Reality based Game Shows are televised events which involve members of the public and or celebrities competing as a team or as individual against each other in as series competitive games which can physical challenging and or mentally challenging usually for money and/or a variety of prizes. The prize can be cash, a spouse, a date, a contract, trips, goods and services etc. Game shows are also referred as ‘Competition Shows’.
Games shows can be categorised as:
Mentally Challenging Games – These are quiz or information based game shows where the host of the show or panel of judges asks the contestant general knowledge questions divided into various levels. The contestants have to answer these in a certain period of time and gather points and or cash for every correct answer. In the process they may get evicted or gain certain advantages which are useful in the later stage of the game. Some of this type of games are Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, American Gladiators, Dog Eat Dog, Deal or No Deal, Weakest Link etc. These are usually shot in an enclosed environment or TV studio over a short period of time.
Physically Challenging Games - These are mostly stunt based or adventure based game shows which involves members of the public and or celebrities performing weird, dangerous or tricky physical tasks better and/or quicker than all the other contestants or simply completing the task given. The game is divided into several zones and stages with each round getting tougher and tougher. These usually take place outdoors with specially created structures and or equipments. Some of these are Minute to Win It, Who Dares Wins, Fear Factor, Total Wipeout, Takeshi's Castle etc.
Self-improvement / Makeover Shows – Reality based Self-improvement / Makeover Shows cover the attempts and success of a person or group of people (afflicted celebrities or common people) improving their lives with the help of an expert along with a celebrity as a host. The improvements in life can be related to problems like obesity, lack of fashion sense, bad behaviour, psychological issues etc. Thus we have Charm School and From G's to Gents focussing on self-improvement and manners, Biggest Loser and Fat March which focus on weight loss, How Do I Look? focusing on fashion makeover, ‘Queer Eye’ and ‘What Not to Wear’ which focus on style and grooming, ‘Made’ focusing on attaining difficult goals, ‘Supernanny’ focuss
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