Reality... on television?
... Why is it that people are so fascinated with watching these so-called reality shows? I've wanted to write about this - really write about it instead of some quick quip here and there - for quite some time.
The other day on the way to work (it's a 15 minute drive folks) I heard no less than 5 commercials for different reality shows, and I was disgusted. Partly at the rampant commercials, and partly at the subject matter of said shows. Some of these shows are WAY. OUT. THERE.
Ratings on reality shows have just gone up and up since they started. Some think they started with Survivor. I disagree - does anyone remember 'Candid Camera' or 'The Newlywed Game' - those would have to be the first reality shows. And even those had a bit of scripting, as Survivor does (the challenges, anyone? It's not like these folks are set off on their own to do whatever without an outline).
Is it really possible to have reality on television? Or is it just creative acting?
What is it about reality shows that has people so fascinated? Is it the new 'soap opera'? Everyone's tired of the same lame scripting and recycled storylines that soap operas have and they've turned to reality shows as the remedy for that?
Could it be escapism? That people are so disillusioned with their own lives that they have this need to watch other people's lives on the small screen? Lives that are supposedly made better by plastic surgery, or a new home makeover, or finding the love of their lives while competing with 20 other people for that same person?
Are people just so fascinated with watching other people's lives/tragedies on television? Why? Is it because their lives are boring, or is it an escape, or is it the human predilection to watch another person suffer?
It seems that I have more questions than statements about this subject, but I have a feeling that the great fascination is simply fueled by the media and the way the media continually pushes some incredible story in front of their viewers whenever they can. And the so-called "Reality Television" is the same way. What network can come up with the newest and strangest idea that they can put on television without earning the eyes of the censors... while still earning the highest ratings.
Can you find your happiness and feel better about your life while watching someone else's tragedy? I watched the first episode of "The Swan" last year, and realized that the woman they were profiling resembled me. There they were pointing things out that were wrong with her physical looks, and I took that as an assault on myself. Thoroughly unreasonable, I know, but there was NOTHING wrong with that women that some good therapy wouldn't have fixed.
Then there's "The Big Loser" - where contestants work on each other to survive another week in the game (Survivor-style, without the voting). Why, with the obesity rates in the US what they are, are people so interested in watching SOMEONE ELSE lose that kind of weight when they could be working on it themselves?
Have I totally gone off my rocker, am I on the wrong track? I just don't understand this fascination with watching other people's so-called lives on television. Don't get me wrong - I love watching a good drama like 'The West Wing' or 'CSI', but there's something intrusive and almost slimy about some of these shows premises. Who's going to really find love among 20 women and one highly wealthy eligible Bachelor? I have a hard time with any woman subjecting herself to competing ON TELEVISION with 19 other women to maybe become some guy's wife. Is the self-esteem of these women that far down into the toilet, or are they just after the money and 15 minutes of fame? Or did they just search the aspiring actress head shots for some folks who would look good for them. Notice - none of those women are just like you and me - they're all thin, in good shape, and model-pretty... It's all about the ratings, baby.
Couldn't they still do the same things with a well written ensemble cast? Of course they could - just look at 'Lost'. Ensemble cast, diverse individuals all with backstory (read: history), left on a mysterious island with good lighting and cameramen. But everything they do is scripted - ah, you lose the potential instability of an individual's behavior or some really juicy mental breakdown out...
...Or the chance for someone going au natural
(Richard Hatch, anyone?)