- Term Papers and Free Essays

Reality Television

Essay by   •  December 20, 2010  •  1,504 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,300 Views

Essay Preview: Reality Television

Report this essay
Page 1 of 7

Reality Television


One of the most recent and freshest trends to come out of television is the phenomenon of "reality television". Spurred by trend setting programs like CBS's Survivor and MTV's The Real World, reality television was launched as a new genre. With such recent hits as Laguna Beach: The Real OC, Flavor of Love, and American Idol, reality television, as a genre and a staple of pop culture, has only begun to grow. In an analysis of various articles studied from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and, The Los Angeles Times within the last three months has confirmed a recent trend in reality television itself. The articles tend to state the popularity and lucrativeness of reality television and its continuing growth, with no downfall in sight.


According to a survey by, almost half of our nation's younger generation watches more reality television than last year. The average American television viewer only watches four to five shows on television regularly. Eighteen to twenty five year-olds - the target audience for much of the programming for reality television - watch close to four reality shows a week. Even people who were over the age of 55 were keeping up with at least two reality shows. This increase of viewership in reality television has shown that reality programming is strongly popular with a wide variety of ages. And with networks devoting their programming towards reality television (VH1's Celebreality block of programming; ABC's WifeSwap, Extreme Makeover, Dancing with the Stars; MTV's ever growing roster of reality shows, Fox's American Idol), it is easy to see that the popularity of reality television is an immediate trend in not only television, but in pop culture as well.


Even if you do not watch reality television, it is becoming increasingly hard to avoid the trend. When probing for articles in the journals mentioned, "reality television" yielded many results, some of which were even entirely devoted to a single reality show. The recent trend in the explosion of reality programming on television can be attributed to the viewers and fans of the shows demanding for more similar programming, and the networks, looking to make quick money, catering to what large audience of varying ages is asking for

With reality viewers ranging from pre-teen to seniors, they seem to all find something attractive about unscripted shows. For the participants of the show, it is obvious why they would get involved: a quick scheme to make money and gain fame. But for the fan of these shows it is a little harder to derive the reason for their fascination with these types of shows. Richard Verrier, a writer for the Los Angeles times, thinks it is because "RTV (reality television) is a form of therapy to escape our own version of reality" because when watching reality shows, we "live vicariously through the "characters" on the show. " Viewers become voyeurs into a seemingly private life that isn't their own, but because these so called "characters" are picked from a public community that we all belong to, they become easy to relate to which broadens our appeal for the show - "Most of the time, these people are not people we aim to be, but since they are ordinary, their nonfictional significance is more attainable. "

Preying on the voracious appetite for reality television that America craves, networks are turning voyeurs into everyone that can't escape the allure of "real life" that unscripted television continues to impart viewers with. In 2000, with the premier of Survivor, reality television was dismissed as a low-brow fare that would fade. The genre's vast appeal with audiences, as well as the low costs incurred, has caused it to burgeon into a key driver for production. Last year sitcoms and dramas increased activity by thirteen percent and sixteen percent respectively. A fifty three percent jump in reality programming activity illustrates television network's willingness to produce and deliver such shows .

Much of reality television's success, according to Emily Nelson of The Wall Street Journal, is in doing what sitcom's have done for years. "They provide mind-candy at the end of a long day for increasingly exhausted Americans. " There are no story lines to follow, or complicated plots to decipher. "Reality programming is filling the void of mindless entertainment, " says Lois Coleman, a Cincinnati researcher who studies human behavior in focus groups. Networks don't seem to mind this shift in programming though. While the reality shows have no secure retirement of reruns and syndication that sitcoms or dramas do, they offer quick cash. With production costs of about $800,000 for an hour, compared with roughly $1 million for a half-hour sitcom or about $2 million for a drama, television networks are looking to deliver more of this type of product that creates plenty of return for them .

But with all the reality television programming that is already showcased, networks are still doing more to give viewers a more complete "reality" experience. MTV, the networked that helped pioneer and push the reality boundary with shows like The Real World, and Laguna Beach: The Real OC are now taking reality television to the next step. Running of the enormous popularity of Laguna Beach, MTV plans to debut Virtual Laguna Beach, an online service in which fans of the program can engross themselves - or at least can immerse digitized, three-dimensional characters, called



Download as:   txt (8.9 Kb)   pdf (114.6 Kb)   docx (12.4 Kb)  
Continue for 6 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 12). Reality Television. Retrieved 12, 2010, from

"Reality Television" 12 2010. 2010. 12 2010 <>.

"Reality Television.", 12 2010. Web. 12 2010. <>.

"Reality Television." 12, 2010. Accessed 12, 2010.