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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