Archive for July, 2008

Reality TV

 

Reality TV has come a long way since the Newlywed Game.  Now there are reality TV shows for every demographic and every preference.  Intellectuals can match wits with 5th graders and gossips can get the real story on To Tell the Truth.  Voyeurs can watch house guests 24 x 7 on Big Brother and adventurers learn what it takes to Survive. 

 

Survivor began in 2000, the brain child of creator Mark Burnett, and an uncertain audience embraced the show, much to the surprise and delight of execs at CBS.  The premise was simple – take a group of people and put them in a deserted local.  Force them to pick each other off one by one until the last man (or woman) standing is awarded $1 million.  I don’t know if Burnett expected the contestants to devolve so quickly or not, but the effects of the experience are fascinating to watch. 

 

Survivor was the first to showcase people out of their element, living together and getting real.  The Real World aired on MTV in 1992, with seven strangers living together in one house.  The show finds a new generation of fans each year and casting continues to find the most extreme personalities to ensure loads of DRAMA.  They have a formula that works.  Mix equal one of each: a homosexual, a Christian, a wild girl, a player, a loyal boyfriend, a brown skinned person and a racist, stir in alcohol, place in an exotic local and allow to simmer.  Then just sit back and enjoy. 

 

After Survivor’s success, every network scrambled to put a reality TV show on the air.  Some were good:  The Amazing Race, The Mole, The Apprentice, Biggest Loser and some were bad: My Big Fat Obnoxious Finance, Pirate Master and Fat March.

 

Most will fall into certain categories.  Survivor’s motto for example, is out wit, out play, out last.  It’s all about the competition, playing to win, using strategy to manipulate others.  The Amazing Race and The Mole also require mental and physical abilities to succeed.  The viewers gets a chance to know the competitors, to hear their back story, and meet (through TV at least) their family and friends. 

 

Another group of shows will showcase a specific skill, such as; modeling, decorating, singing, acting, designing clothes or even cutting hair.  Contestants are looking for their big break and compete for a cash prize or employment contract.  I think The Apprentice started the movement of career centric shows.  Contestants vied for an opportunity to work with The Donald and after seemingly impossible challenges they would be called to the board room and one player would be eliminated.  I think the Donald has trademarked his catch phrase “You’re Fired.”  One of my favorite shows in this category was the short lived (one season so far) show On the Lot.  Aspiring directors created short films each week hoping for the opportunity to work at DreamWorks for a year. 

 

There are makeover shows, from Biggest Loser to the Swan.  The Biggest Loser stands out because the contestants really work hard to make amazing transformations.  Other makeover shows are inspiring because of the end result, not necessarily the process. 

 

There are day in the life reality TV shows which basically follow people around while they live their life or do their job.  No challenges, no prize at the end, just a fascinating glimpse into the way other people live.  Sometimes the show will center on an individual like Hogan Knows Best or Hey Paula or it might be based on a group of people who work together, such as: Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, LA Ink or Ace of Cakes.  

 

And then, of course, there are all the dating and relationship shows.  Love found on the Bachelor and love lost on Temptation Island.  There’s a huge variety of shows in this category too.  VH1 has claimed a niche with their Celebreality catering to D or E list celebs like Flavor Flav or Bret Michaels.  MTV jumped on board with A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.  I shudder to think who’ll be next – Andy Dick?  Tara Reid? Courtney Love?

 

I for one will be there to watch. 

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