Reality TV vs Real TV - what does the future hold?

Roisin Burke

Roisin Burke writes about the phenomenon of reality television and asks has it a long term future.

Roisin is a 23 year old masters journalism student studying at UL with an undergraduate in Psychology from the University of Wales.

Whenever I turn on the TV these days I’m watching someone like me fighting for a job –is the recession really that bad? Reality TV shows are taking over the soaps for religious, can’t be missed, everyday viewing. It seems that script written, perfectly articulated drama is being shunted for brash comments, hasty quips and irrational action under intense pressure

It started with things like ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Survivor’ but it has branched out to every aspect of talent seeking possible. It’s even the route to recruit a business partner these days.

‘XFactor’, ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Masterchef’ are surprisingly popular shows as are ‘Britain and Ireland’s Next top model’ (BINTM), ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, ’Strictly Come Dancing’ ‘Come Dine With Me’ and ‘Celebrity Banisteoir’.

It seems human competitive nature is as compelling viewing as it is a natural compulsion. More and more it is clear no matter who you are and how timid you appear, no matter how many years of lackadaisical living you have had, when you are put on a reality TV show the competition becomes priority, the claws come out and the pressure will show you up at your very worst.

The transition is as interesting as the viewing phenomenon. To see happy chappies twist into vulgar loud bossy bullies. To see calm ladies become erratic witches. The saying goes ‘Watch out for the quiet ones’ and in modern times, ‘watch’ we do.

It’s exciting, it’s compelling, and it feels fresh and new. It is gossip unfolding in what seems like an eye witness account. It’s news everyone wants to know.

Of course it is no new phenomenon to enjoy watching others, programmes like Candid Camera have been popular for years. But this central focus on ‘normality’ is the freakish prediction of Andy Warhol’s proclamation: “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”

Fame really is becoming as trivial and short-lived as this. TV is now governed by this new trend. Where do we go from here?

TV shows are now created around opportunities and people trying to make the most of them. Sporting competitions, dating shows, job vacancies, life improvements, home improvements, self improvements.

Every aspect of life has been assessed from the camera angle. The original theme of watching as a social experiment (Big Brother) has been incorporated into normal living in order to make more recording possibilities.

The reason for the popularity of reality TV show is the increase of media options and the demise of family viewing. This has led to niche shows directed at age groups and specialised genres.

Shows are not made for the public, they are made for a portion of the public and reality shows are the cheapest type of TV possible. No script, no makeup, no preparation, the action is premade, all you do is turn on the camera.

The reason TV is being made cheaper is because the competition is higher and the rewards are less. There are simply too many ways of watching entertainment or being entertained.

Social networking site, twitter, facebook, you-tube and the multitude of sky channels has made cult viewing sensational and the viewing market vicious. It is a matter of time before it peaks and plummets.

Reality TV is a modern trend. Like all trends it will eventually lose its appeal. People will tire of watching normal people doing normal things. The desire for Hollywood will return to the small screen and like X-Factor contestants, reality TV will fade into the background.

The statistics speak for themselves. 2008 was the peak for reality TV and ever since viewership has been slowly decreasing.

NBC Universal Entertainment Television chairman Jeff Gaspin has said - “I think we’ve probably exhausted 80 percent of reality,”

The return of the script is not far away and I can’t wait. Creativity deserves to be challenged and society deserves to see creativity evolving.

Human beings are curious individuals and I am intrigued for what lies ahead of the reality TV trend!

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