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Reality television is everywhere. If you want to be a model, a businessman, a West End star, find the love of your life, loose weight or pretend to be parents for a month, there is a television show for you. Whatever you need/want, you can have it from reality television. It’s not only the unsuspecting public that fall victim to the reality curse, so called “celebrities” are at it too. Anyone remember Lisa Scott Lee? No, me neither. But she had her own reality show in “Totally Scott Lee”. On Wikipedia, in the UK alone, there have been over 240 different types of reality television show. Over 240!? Either someone has way too much free time or we should be worried, mainly because we just might be obsessed with reality television.
When I decided to delve a little deeper into the actual quality of programming I was dismayed by what I saw from British reality TV. Alongside the favourite like “Britain’s Got Talent”, “X Factor” and “The Apprentice” (my own personal favourite) there were lower rate programmes such as social experiment programme “Shattered” (where contestants were competing for a £100,000 prize, the winner being determined by who could stay awake the longest) and “There’s something about Miriam” (in which six men attempted to woo Miriam, a Mexican beauty with a secret. I actually YouTube’d the ending, in which the last man standing was told that she was a transsexual; the dawning realisation on his face is just a picture) But honestly, why do people put themselves through this for fame/money/love/the prize? More importantly, why are we watching it?
Since the 1940’s reality television has existed, and since then it has grown within our viewing, George Orwell got it spot on in “1984” in the creation of the character of “Big Brother” and “The Truman Show” created a full movie around the concept of a character being born into reality TV. But why do we watch it? Those in the industry would suggest that escapism may be the reason we watch it, it’s something that is removed from the mundane of normal life so the creation of something more gives us the opportunity to escape. The problem that could occur is that we become so engrossed in this that reality television replaces our conceptions of other relationships and overtakes everything else. Plus, there is always the entertainment value. Who doesn’t want to see someone throw a massive hissy fit over their makeover on one of the many “Top model” series? The episodes with the most controversy are always the most watched in “Big Brother”. Some may say it could be slightly sadistic to enjoy the humiliation that some contestants face in reality television, and being honest, this would be the only place where you can see this level of embarrassment in people. As we’ve seen in Susan Boyle (arguably one of the most successful reality stars in British television history) the effects of this “fame” can be huge. What happens when the fame given to these “stars” evaporates? Who clears them up when they fall off the radar?
The implications of reality television are huge, not only for the participants but the viewer also. But with “Big Brother” making its final return and television shows like “Over the Rainbow” and “Britain’s got Talent” currently showing on our screens, the train that is reality television does not appear to be slowing anytime soon. Still, unfortunatly I’ll be watching.