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Why Reality Tv

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Reality TV? Who Demands it and Why?

Susan Williams

University of Phoenix Online


Dr. Dave Hall

July 8, 2007

Why Reality TV? Who Demands it and Why?

When one turns on the television set at any given time of the day to see what is available to watch will find a certain type of show is prominent. Of course during the daytime one will have tons of soap operas, court TV shows and shows about animal heroes and more to pick from. The one common theme one will find is that the majority of viewing is reality-based television. We must be fascinated with this form of television or why would it be so prominent on the viewing schedule? What is it we are seeking to get from filling our TV viewing time with these kinds of shows? Why are networks constantly creating more and varied types of reality TV shows? Why are these shows in such demand?

How is reality-based TV defined?

There are varying views on what reality TV truly is. There are some that include the news and special reports as part of the genre and others are purist and say it only includes those shows that are unscripted. Reality TV also usually refers to shows that have been produced since the year 2000 (Wikipedia, 2007).

Unscripted is in itself a broad term. Even though the majority of reality TV shows are unscripted they do some heavy editing after the filming is complete. They can take phrases and combine them with other statements or even omit words in order to bring about the sensationalism that the viewers are seeking(Wikipedia, 2007). (Balkin, 2004) states "...we all know there's little reality in reality TV: those "intimate" dates, for instance are staged in front to f banks of cameras and sweltering floodlights."

For the purposes of this paper we are defining reality TV as unscripted shows that are loosely or strongly based on day-to-day life. Critics do not like the term reality due to the fact that these shows are often set in environments and situations, which the majority of people will never be placed in. The use of coaching participants to elicit certain behaviors such as the Jerry Springer show, also raise the concerns of critics. Reality television(Wikipedia, 2007).

What kinds of shows are out there?

There are several categories of shows that fall under reality based TV. There are the documentary style also know as docsoaps. A perfect example of this kind of show would be The Wives of Orange County. This show is supposedly unscripted and the views and the camera are just passive observers. Editing is used heavily to bring about the perception of a smooth flowing story like soap opera (Wikipedia, 2007).

There are special living environment shows. For example Road Rules, The 1900 House, Temptation Island, The Real World, Charm School, I Love New York and the Flavor of Love. These shows place people in unusual environments that the average person would not be placed in to accomplish a task that might in itself be normal. When they are asked to get the main character to fall in love with them, or to win in competitions in order to win money, these are not every day situations (Wikipedia, 2007).

The shows most are familiar with are the celebrity reality shows. This is probably due to the fact that the characters are familiar, we have a natural curiosity about whom they truly are these shows are quite popular. Examples of these shows are; The Anna Nicole Show, The Osbournes, Newlyweds, Hogan Knows Best, The Simple Life, Rob and Big and the Surreal Life are just a few (Wikipedia, 2007).

Professional activity shows are not lacking in examples either. These are shows that reveal the lives of everyday professionals doing their everyday jobs. This type of reality show affords the viewer the opportunity to learn about careers they would not every participate in themselves. Examples include; COPS, American Chopper, The Restaurant, The Apprentice, Pimp My Ride, Cold Case Files and the First 48 (Wikipedia, 2007).

There is even a category for Self-improvement or makeover shows. These are abundant starting with the British show Changing Rooms, Trading Spaces, Celebrity Fit Club, The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover, Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, Supernanny and not to wear (Wikipedia, 2007).

We could go on and on with the list of reality based shows and debate if they truly fit into the reality based category of shows. The purpose of defining a few of the different types of shows, is to give a brief breakdown and understanding of the abundance and variety of these shows.

Why are networks pushing reality based programming?

We all know that for the networks, ratings and money are there driving forces. After all they are a business and morals and complaining from watch dog groups do not affect them half as much as Nielsen and the almighty dollar. So this being the case; what exactly is driving networks to expand their list of reality based TV shows?

Money talks, on average a half hour sitcom can cost a million dollars and yet an unscripted reality show only averages $150,000 for half an hour (Streisand, 2001).

What businessman in his right mind would not take and opportunity on production value like that.

Oh, yes, lets not forget the ratings. The graph below shows the total Nielsen rating for the various types of shows for the month of June.

usatoday,retrived 6/23 /2007

What drives us to watch these kinds of shows?

A theory about this called Gerbner's cultivation theory tries to explain that when a person views reality TV there perception of reality get altered to include and seem more like the reality on the TV shows they are watching. This brings them to a place where they begin to believe that there are more people and situations like those they viewed than they believed existed prior to viewing the shows (Pontius, 2003). This theory was even tested using soap operas. The research found that after viewing the soap the student were more likely to use more deception and had less trust in others when asked about a hypothetical situation (Pontius, 2003).

There was a study done consisting of 30 students age 18-23. Each group consisted of 10 people



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