What’s Up With Reality TV?


   Reality TV has been around since as early as the late 1940’s, but it didn’t start off with how we know it today. The first reality show to ever air called Candid Camera debuted in 1948 where the premise included broadcasting ordinary people reacting to pranks with hidden cameras. The idea of having ‘ordinary’ people on TV that was unscripted, presented a sense of authenticity and relatability that appealed to a mass audience. A few years later, the first game show appeared, and the variety of reality shows has grown immensely since. 

   The first ‘documentary’ like show called American Sportsman, aired on PBS in 1965 and ran up until 1986, the purpose of the show was to show a normal everyday family being themselves.  As time has progressed, reality shows have changed and tend to follow people who are relatable to the audience that navigate through some type of competition and encounter unique social situations, such as The Bachelor, Big Brother, and more recently added Netflix originals Love is Blind and Too Hot To Handle

      Today, reality shows such as Dance Moms, Jersey Shore, and Keeping Up With The Kardashians, exploit the dramatic element that has dominated this genre of television. For example, Dance Moms is a popular reality show on Lifetimes that follows young dancers and their mothers at the Abby Lee Dance Company. Throughout the years it has been known to showcase more drama than dance. 

   It was admitted later after the airing that the biggest and most known fights that occured between the mothers on the show were scripted, but despite that, people still continue to watch the show. Even though it’s common for most reality shows now to be scripted, stripping away the authenticity that it was intended to be, a majority of America still watches them, but why?

  Issues and negativity that have been brought up about reality tv roots from the idea that views rely on the audiences enjoyment of humiliation and degradation of the participants. According to an article in psychology Today, there is a direct connection between watching reality TV and voyeurism, which is the enjoyment from seeing the pain or distress of others. 

   In 2009, Lemi Baruh, a Turkish psychologist published a paper explaining that voyeurism and social comparison tendency were correlated positively with the preference to watching reality TV. Additionally, the enjoyment of watching reality TV can stem from the fantasy of being famous.
      As reality tv has altered to become more drama oriented, statements have come out that watching reality tv can make one less intelligent; but according to Hannah Jewell, a journalist for the Washington Post, “You can watch anything in a very critical and intelligent way…[and] you can watch a very intelligent show in a very dumb was [as well.]” 

   The positive aspect of reality tv is the variety of themes for the show. There are makeup, fashion, and singing competitions which have participants showcase their talent. This helps aspiring talent get recognized and can lead to job opportunities even after the show ending. Overall, watching reality tv can be used as a way to observe human behavior or be used as a destressor after a long day. 


It's only fair to share...Print this page
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn