The final question: Why??

March 24, 2009 at 1:29 pm (Uncategorized)

After doing some research about the genre of reality TV I know that everyone somehow is watching it and not just recently but as it seems as long as television broadcasting exists. The variety of shows is incredible; the target group is not only people with no jobs, too much time and boring neighbors. The shows are made for any possible audience – any age, social position, gender or profession.
But there is still one question left: WHY? What is so fascinating about watching ordinary people or celebrities living their lives? Why does it entertain people from over 70 countries in which Big Brother is or was broadcasted to observe people living together in a house? Like any other person we know is living?
After thinking about it I doubt that I can find a satisfying answer. I can only try to describe my own motivation to watch shows like I love New York, Germany´s next Top Model or Flavor of Love.

Like any other “proper” movie or show reality gives me the opportunity to escape my life and enjoy some entertainment. So far so good….But I discovered that I enjoy watching reality shows rather in companion than a normal movie. When watching Top Model I make appointments with my friends and we watch it together or at least gossip about it afterwards or often even beforehand – Who is going to be eliminated? Will the fight between model 1 and model 2 erupt for good? How is it possible that she is still in the show with her big nose and arrogant attitude? And so on…
So maybe this is where the magic happens: I am involved and I can judge! I can judge people who I don´t know and no one is blaming me for being mean or arrogant. It is easier to compare ordinary people´s life and appearance to my own life than I could ever do it with Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts. And that is what we are trained to do nowadays – comparing ourselves to others and either be better or find excuses for failing. So before judging me – watch some Reality TV and judge the others!



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The dimensions of Reality TV

March 24, 2009 at 1:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Before I started browsing the internet for information about reality TV I knew that there is a lot. But I must admit that I have not expected this enormity of shows! Especially in our little and somehow limited European world it is easy to loose sight of the whole extend. 

Currently there are at least two television channels devoted exclusively to reality television: in the United States it is Fox Reality which was launched in 2005 and in the UK the channel Zone Reality launched in 2002. Of course there must be a big variety of diverse reality shows to fill a whole channel. And it is true that the genre reality TV can be divided into many different sub genres.

I think the most common shows which are connected to reality TV straight away are the shows which have some kind of documentary style. This means that the viewers and the camera are passive observe followers. This style of filming is often referred to as “Fly on the wall”. This can vary in every possible direction. Like for example the placement of cast members into a special living environment. Best known examples are the shows Big Brother, The Real World or Temptation Island. Another version of  fly-on-the-wall-style” shows involves celebrities which mostly capture their everyday life. Well known examples include The Osbournes, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, and Hogan Knows Best. The channel VH1 has even created an entire block of shows dedicated to celebrity reality, known as “Celebreality”.

Another documentary style is to portray the life of professionals and their jobs. The earliest example and also the longest running reality show is COPS which was broadcasted the first time in 1989 and presents the daily life of policemen. Today there are countless shows like the tattoo shows Miami Ink, London Ink or American Choppers.
It is almost impossible to even mention all the different variations of reality TV. I think people do often not even realize that they are watching reality Television as renovation shows, cooking shows, job searching shows or dating shows all are part of the reality TV genre.  

Because the phenomenon Reality TV is such an integral part of television and its culture it now starts to get a solid position within the media landscape. In April 2008, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced it will give its very first Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality Show or Reality Competition.  
So finally – I am officially legitimated to watch Reality TV!

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Real or not so real?

March 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Reality TV – what exactly does qualify a show to be a reality show? To answer this question the term reality should be defined first. By definition reality means “the state of things as they actually exist”. In a wider sense it also includes everything that is – whether it is observable or comprehensible.

If reality is in the end everything that exists, where does the idea come from to create shows that capture reality when we are surrounded by it all our life? And an even more interesting question is: How come that reality shows are so successful that it seems there are new upcoming shows every other day? Wasn’t it the aim of shows or movies to abduct the viewer into a phantasm world and show him or her different aspects of creativity? When did this reality TV obsession begin? To discover this phenomenon it is necessary to go back in time.

To my surprise the idea of capturing unscripted situation with ordinary people is quiet old. The “grandfather of reality TV genre” is Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 in America and broadcasted the reaction of pedestrians to pranks. When the joke was revealed, victims would be told the show’s catch phrase, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.” This was also the time when talent search shows came up like Original Amateur Hour . These shows were like todays Idols shows which featured amateur competitors and audience voting. They were followed in the 1950s by two game shows Beat the Clock and Truth or Consequence which involved the contestants in crazy competitions, stunts and practical jokes.

It appears a little strange but the first reality show which was broadcasted in the UK was a series called Seven Up! It showed interviews and inquired the reactions to everyday life of a dozen ordinary seven-year olds from a broad cross section of society. Every seven years, a film documented the life of the same individuals in the intervening years, titled 7 Plus Seven, 21 Up and so on. The series was structured simply as a series of interviews with no element of plot. However, it did have the then-new effect of turning ordinary people into celebrities.
In the 1960s and 70s the hype of reality got started. The show An American Family showed a family going through a divorce in twelve shows. In the late 70s productions came up like The Dating Game or The Gong Show in which featured participants who were eager to sacrifice some of their privacy and dignity in a televised competition created the start of modern reality television.
Reality television saw an explosion of global popularity starting in the early 2000s. Two reality series – Survivor and American Idol – have been the top-rated series on American television for an entire season.
I could go on and on about shows who came up through the years of television. There are many shows which are either fully or partly based on unscripted situations and ordinary people and their everyday lives.
Today the assortment of reality shows is never ending and I have not even had a look at countries like China or Japan yet….

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Hello World!

March 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm (Uncategorized)

I am addicted. Not to an expensive and unhealthy drug but comparable inconvenient and annoying – reality TV.

Before I go into details I should introduce myself: I am Bettina and I am 25 years old. I study “International Media and Entertainment Management “ in the Netherlands I can state that I have seen a lot from the world so far. I am passably smart and not easy to fool. How come then when switching through TV channels I skip the news, documentaries and independent movie productions and end up watching America´s next Top Model, Paris Hiltons new BFF or Miami Ink? Aren´t reality shows only for people with too much time and a boring life? Why do I watch these shows when I already suspect that 50 percent of the show is probably planned before hand and not as real as it tries to appear?

When friends of mine discover this hidden side of mine I always know I should be embarrassed for the consumption of this kind of entertainment. They look at me and wait for some lame excuses or stammer explanations. But to be honest: Most of the time I am not embarrassed. I rather try to get the other persons hooked to the particular show, which most of the time works. This usually surprises them more than it does me. But in the end everyone is watching at least one reality show regularly. There are just too many to choose from and they spread in every possible direction. Some of them are well hidden like Pimp my Ride, Hells Kitchen or Trigger Happy TV.

Nowadays it seems almost difficult to avoid shows with the reality touch.

But the question I get asked all the time and I also ask myself stays the same: Why are you watching this crab? I could easily answer: Because! But being a true and passionate Media student I will try to find some explanations and discover the phenomenon “Reality Show”. 

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