Reality shows popularity waning

When reality shows first hit the scene I resisted them full force and refused to watch them on basic principle. I didn't see a single episode of Survivor Season 1 until the night of the finale. Before going out a friend and I turned it on for about 5 minutes, we decided we had to leave the house because we could feel ourselves getting sucked in. That night at the bar it was extremely quiet (maybe 5 people in the whole place) I imagined that everyone was having a Survivor party and watching the show in droves (they must have been, it had been all anyone could talk about for months). I was stubborn and wanted in no way to give in to this new TV trend.

This all changed when I found myself working in a job that was in essence a
sinecure. I had nothing better to do than watch TV and seeing as this was still supposed to be a job the TV didn't have cable and therefore I only got 2 channels who's reception was relatively clear. I learned something interesting about myself while in this position: I could watch the most ridiculously terrible crap day in and day out if I had nothing better to do (or was too lazy to do something else). I literally watched the soap opera "Passions" for 2 years straight while absolutely despising it with every fiber of my being. (eventually I accepted the show. But in my defense I think they got new writers). The passions thing is a separate issue but I did start watching reality shows when they were on and in most cases I didn't hate them the way I had convinced myself I should.

If Jerry Springer and COPS have taught us anything its that drama and conflict are entertaining and can pass as a viable TV show. Reality shows are based on this doctrine, without it they're nothing. I personally find that the closer a show gets to the finale the less interesting it becomes. I watched the entire season of last years Apprentice except the final 2, by that point there are so few contestants left that it becomes more of a serious competition and I couldn't care less about the actual outcome. In reality TV the end doesn't justify the means, the means justifies the means. This formula doesn't work if you want your show to have longevity, essentially you are making the equivalent of a popcorn movie. Its entertaining for the time you spend watching it but it utterly forgettable. I have to really think to remember the people who won all the reality shows I've seen let alone all the jackasses who got voted off in the early weeks of the shows.

Of course American Idol is the exception to the rule. Because they are working along to an actual goal, we are more likely to hear about them when the thing is all done, but no one who placed lower than the top 2 (unless you banged Paula Abdul). So in actuality it isn't the exception to the rule. The show still has the conflict and drama they just condense most of it into the audition stage of the show and 90% (actually 83.34%) of the finalists are forgotten (especially Josh Gracin).

I guess I should get to the point of this post. All the reality shows (including the flagship Survivor) are dropping in the ratings. It seems that people's interest is moving back to scripted drama's like the monster hit "Lost". This isn't a bad thing because the reality template is getting pretty worn out. I'm sure the big shows will stick around for quite a while longer but we probably wont see many more flash in the pan's like the "Temptation Island"s or the "Average Joe"s anymore.

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11:34 PM posted by Blogger Cuppojoe

I, too, rejected Reality TV early on, though for a very different reason...

My baptism into the genre came with the first American Big Brother. I was utterly entranced by the fact I could log into the web feeds 24 hours a day (for free, no less!) and watch what was really going on in the house. It was a blast to watch the weekly episodes on TV and compare what the producers chose to show us to what we really knew was going on in that house.

And then it all changed. You couldn't watch for free on the web, and what you did pay for was filtered. And instead of letting the public vote out the house guests, that duty fell to the guests themselves. The taste of "scripted" and "manipulated" quickly killed any sense of "reality" that had once been there.

Since then, it's all been crap. I know they are showing only the scenes that will boost ratings or, by setting up a potential surprising twist, boost future ratings. Is that real?


7:00 PM posted by Blogger Free at Last!

My comment is a little different,I just wanted to let you know I got some great info from Yahoo music ad that Google had placed.I've been wanting to see that ad for a while,saw it once but was rushed that time and never stopped.So,just saying thanks for the ad!    

2:25 AM posted by Blogger Kunstem√¶cker

reality tv was strangely addictive though. I never understood how a format that lacked quality in every sense could still attract such a big public.

That says a lot about the public. It makes me think of the Roman empire and their amphitheaters: bread and games for the people.    

10:06 AM posted by Blogger The Phoenix

A lot of the "reality" in these shows is actually scripted. They want the people involved to create turmoil and drama.

The first real reality show I remember was MTV's "Real World." I believe it was on the air before Survivor was...I watched that first season while in college, so that's 1991-1992.

That show was pretty damn raw, and it was really good. But as that franchise has dragged along, the crew has been known to get involved and tried to stir the pot.

Reality TV needs to take a break, and I certainly don't wish for 'Who wants to marry a millionaire' again.    

11:39 PM posted by Anonymous Ben

I am so glad to read that they are losing popularity...

...now, if we can just make them become *completely* extinct! :)    

11:13 AM posted by Blogger M. Graveyard

I live in Scotland, and as far as UK reality tv goes, it's getting stronger.
I am mostly referring to Big Brother - the UK being one of the first nations to start it in around the year 2000 if I remember correctly.
It's a huge part of our culture here now, moreso in England (there was one Scottish contestant this year in the original lineup, who left after 2 days, two welsh people, one Irish and the rest were all English). The contestants (even those who don't win) are shot into fame - especially ones with a particularly strong character. Many have gone on to work in television, radio, fashion etc...
Big Brother's popularity is growing and expanding, and for a quarter of the year, the entire nation is sucked into it's world. Other shows such as "I'm a celebrity Get Me Out Of Here" Are still very popular, but don't quite have that same power that Big Brother holds over the UK. You can watch it almost 24/7 on television and it's spread across ch4, e4, and other branches of that channel.
This nation is completely obsessed with what I like to call "numbing entertainment", be it cheap gossip magazines or reality television, I guess it provides some form of escape in their everyday lives.

Why read Tolstoy when you could flick through a magazine and see Victoria Beckham has had yet another boob job?

(ps, I'm just 18 and should probably be engrossed by all this, but fuck it. I decided to study it and am currently doing a degree in Journalism.)    

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