There. I’ve said it. I like Reality TV. Alright, I’ve actually said it before.
It shouldn’t be a shocking thing to say though, should it? Just like any genre has its good shows and bad shows, liking the genre shouldn’t commit you to liking the bad shows.
Admittedly, Reality TV is full of bad shows. I am not a fan of The Farmer Wants a Wife or The Bachelor. And looking back at the grand-daddies of Reality TV – Big Brother and Survivor – who have been with us for about a decade now, I’m not a fan of them either.
However, I do like some Reality TV. There are basically three principles that work for me:
- The participants should be there because of real talent.
- The judges/hosts should be supportive of the participants.
- The outcome of the show should not depend on audience votes.
When I look at the Reality TV shows that work for me, there’s not actually a great deal of difference from the “game shows” that I watched on TV when I was a kid, with the exception that the contestants have to sleep on set. Sale of the Century plus a sleep-over, if you will.
One example of a show that I enjoy that almost follows the three requirements above is So You Think You Can Dance. There’s real talent molded into amazing performances by expert choreographers, the judges are there to provide tips and guide the contestants, but there is audience voting. However, the way voting is set up (until the top ten) gives the judges the ability to save the top contestants from poor choices by the voting public. Still, the drive to get the audience to vote (and pay for that privilege) distracts the show from its pursuit of excellence. I prefer watching the US version of the show, as when it’s re-screened in Australia, some of the pleading is edited out.
Another edge case is The Biggest Loser. While the casting is oriented around weight and motivation rather than a generally recognised “talent”, I did enjoy watching the emotional journey as contestants rebuilt their self-esteem. However, now I feel that requirement #2 is lacking also, at least in the US version of the show. It seems that off-camera, the contestants are engaged in the opposite of the sort of practice that the show outwardly espouses. In this case, it would be better if there was more reality in this Reality TV show. This one’s now off my list.
At least, one clear case of good Reality TV is MasterChef Australia. The competitors can really cook, the judges try to help them, and competitors win through decisions of the judges alone not through votes of the audience. It’s also light-hearted and fun.
Clearly, I’m not the only fan, with an estimated 4 million people expected to tune in for Sunday night’s finale. I realise that 95% of them (give or take…) are from Melbourne, but apparently it does have national appeal. It is Australia’s most watched, non-sporting event. Given it’s now-so-obvious-appeal, it’s hard to understand how when TV media experts first saw the pilot, they didn’t think it would survive.
I’m not sure who I should be barracking for in the finale. Should I go #teamadam or #teamcallum? Although I respect both competitors, I’m not sure if I should be wishing my favourite the fate of Julie or the fate of Poh.
In any case, this is at least a Reality TV show where the judges decision is final.
4 thoughts on “I like Reality TV”
For me, the thing that puts me off Reality TV shows is when the producers are too manipulative. Biggest Loser loses on that criteria for me. They keep on throwing in weird contrivances so it’s not about losing weight and getting healthy half the time.
Agree about Masterchef – it’s really good television. And So You Think You Can Dance is a must-see in our house.
But Dancing with the Stars is out. It’s just silly. People making fools of themselves half the time.
My two other faves are Amazing Race & Survivor. OK, they lack the talent requirement but they’re fun. Race lets you see parts of the world and watch people try out-stupid each other. It’s strangely enjoyable.
Survivor for me is a wonderful(ly bad) way to watch people interact. The editing kills some of it but I’m a bit of a people watcher, trying to understand what people are thinking and why they’re saying and doing what they are (comes in handy in a work setting) and Survivor is that but with nastiness, conniving, mud and mystery.
Weird contrivances. Lost and 24 were losers on that criteria for me, and they weren’t even Reality TV!
The recent Survivor Heroes vs Villains did at least bring in their competitors based on talent, i.e. the proven talent to win at Survivor. So, it looked like a quality show, but the nastiness just isn’t appealing to me.
Amazing Race is strangely appealing, though. I don’t get the urge to watch subsequent episodes, but if I happen to see one, I’m interested to see how it turns out. So, as a Reality TV *series*, it’s a flop for me, but as individual challenges, I find it okay TV.
I don’t know why people watch Dancing with the Stars when So You Think You Can Dance is available as an alternative.
Yeah, Lost and 24 I couldn’t watch. First season of 24 was ok although it got a bit tedious at the end the way his life fell apart at 5 minutes before the hour and get all put together 15 minutes later. Then the subsequent seasons were just more of the same.
I think the latest Survivor had its pluses and minuses. The show already suffers that it’s not about surviving any more. The deals start as soon as they land and dominate the game. And then they get all upset when people go back on deals. This season was that on steroids. It was 90% deals, 9% challenges and 1% injury. They need to rejuvenate it a little. But I’ll watch regardless :-)
In India, one of the biggest reality shows is “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa” Lil Champs. Eight year olds and nine year olds belting out new and old bollywood hits. For the exact reasons you elucidate it is much more fun than the adult version. The kids are unscripted, nervous and talented, home-tutored and from small towns and cities around India. It has a raw believability about it. Think voting is done only by judges.